Immune SystemWhat Are the Side Effects of the Flu Shot?

What Are the Side Effects of the Flu Shot?

Colder weather is right around the corner, and with it comes the annual flu season. This year, experts say it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot. In 2020, thanks to COVID-19 mitigation efforts like mask-wearing and social distancing, the country saw record low cases of the flu. However, as millions of Americans are returning to in-person work and COVID-19 guidelines continue to lift, experts warn that this year’s flu season could be especially dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends almost everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot by the end of October. This has led many to wonder about the potential side effects of the flu shot, and if they even need it at all.

What Is the Flu Shot?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It is caused by several different strains of the virus, influenza A and B which are typically the ones that spur flu season.

The flu shot is the shorter term for the influenza vaccine. The name refers to how most flu vaccines are given, under the skin, although there is one type of flu vaccine that can be inhaled through the nose.

Over the years there have been several types of flu vaccines. Recommendations change each year due to the way the virus changes (mutates) from year to year. Most flu vaccines in the United States are a type of vaccine known as quadrivalent vaccines.

According to the CDC, a quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. Since quadrivalent vaccines cover an extra strain of influenza B, they are thought to provide higher levels of protection.

Since flu strains mutate, the vaccines are reformulated every year. This year’s vaccines are designed to protect against the four flu viruses most likely to spread during the upcoming season.

Side Effects of the Flu Shot

If you’re planning on getting a flu vaccine this year, there’s a chance you could experience some side effects. According to the CDC, the good news is that the majority of side effects are generally mild and go away within a few days.

Below are the most common side effects of the flu shot, according to the CDC:

  • Soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • On rare occasions, fainting
  • Some studies have found a possible small association of the flu vaccine with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare, autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system damages the nerves.

The CDC states that with any vaccine, you should watch for any unusual conditions, such as high fever, behavior changes, or signs of a severe allergic reaction after getting vaccinated. Although allergic reactions are extremely rare, it’s important to be aware of potential signs of one.

Here are some signs of a severe allergic reaction following the flu shot:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Swelling around the eyes or lips
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • A fast heartbeat or dizziness

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction typically occur within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccine is given. Despite possible side effects, the CDC says the flu vaccine is “the first and best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others.”

Do I Need the Flu Shot If I’ve Had the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Do I Need the Flu Shot If I’ve Had the COVID-19 Vaccine?Given that millions of people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, many people are unsure as to whether or not they the flu shot in the first place. There are a few things that are important to remember when talking about the flu shot and the COVID vaccine.

First, the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, nor does the COVID vaccine protect against the flu. While both viruses affect the upper respiratory tract, they require a different immune response, meaning you need both vaccines to be properly protected.

Second, there is no known risk associated with getting the flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time. While early on in the COVID vaccine rollouts the CDC recommended waiting 14 days in between the COVID vaccine and the flu shot, they no say you can get both at the same time, although you may want to switch arms.

What’s more, a recent study published by The American Journal of Infection Control, found that patients who received a flu shot were found to have 24% lower odds of testing positive for COVID-19. According to that same study getting the flu vaccine can make your innate immune system more robust- making it stronger to fight COVID-19.

Not only is it safe to get both vaccines, but getting them at the same time could save you time and money. When you get vaccinated at your healthcare provider’s office, local pharmacy, or other clinics for both, you can take less time off work, from school, or away from daily activities.

If you’re still concerned about the potential side effects of the flu shot, or if you have more questions about whether getting the shot is right for you, it’s important to talk with your doctor. For questions regarding potential side effects or more general information about flu shots, visit the CDC’s website to learn more.

Have You Experienced Any Side Effects of the Flu Shot?

Let us know in the comments section below!

What other topics related to the flu shot you like us to include next time?

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