Know the Side Effects: Flu Vaccine

May 4, 2016

Know the Side Effects: Flu Vaccine

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Understanding the Side Effects of The Flu Vaccine

The flu shot is the recommended vaccine for anyone over the age of 6 months wishing to protect themselves from the flu virus. While flu shots are one of the safest medical products, there are still some side effects associated with the vaccine. Most side effects are mild and short-term, but there is a small chance for more severe reactions.

Mild Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

Most side effects from the flu vaccine are mild and don’t last longer than two days. They are relatively common and are not a cause for concern.

  • Painful, sore, redness at the injection site is the most common side effect. It could be said that most people experience it, but it does not last for more than two days typically.
  • Aches and pains throughout the entire body and is similar to the pain at the injection site but includes the rest of the body. It also does not typically last longer than two days and pain relievers can help alleviate some of the pain.
  • Low-grade fever of 101 degrees or less is another mild side effect that affects a number of people. Like the others, it should go away within a day or two.
  • Headaches, dizziness, and fainting are more common in children, but also occur in older adults as well. People that experience this once, often experience it every time that they get shots, so it is a good idea to mention it to the person administering your vaccine.
  • Nausea is a relatively common side effect from the flu vaccine as well. It is considered mild and typically goes away not long after receiving the shot.

Severe Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

While these are much rarer than mild side effects and are unlikely to occur, they do happen and should be recognized. These side effects are a cause for concern, and you should talk to your doctor or visit the hospital as soon as possible if you or your loved one develops them.

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Changed behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing
  • Paleness
  • High fever (101 or higher)

The above list of side effects can be associated with a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine and should be acknowledged immediately. They usually occur within a few hours of receiving the vaccine. Call your doctor or 9-1-1 as soon as any of those side effects present themselves.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)

Guillain-Barré syndrome may or may not be caused by the flu vaccine. When it does occur, it is typically after the flu, and not after the vaccine, but there have been a few cases when this does happen. It is extremely rare but is a neurological condition that causes weakness and paralysis with immediate hospitalization required. People typically recover relatively quickly, but should not get the influenza vaccine again.

Can You Get the Flu from the Flu Shot?

It is a very common misconception that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. This is just not the case. The virus that is in the vaccine is killed, so people cannot get the flu directly from the flu shot. However, it does take approximately two weeks for your immunity to build up from the shot, so there is a chance of getting the flu right after receiving the shot if you are exposed to the virus soon after. Sometimes people attribute symptoms of a cold as the flu, so that can also cause confusion.

There are a number of side effects associated with the flu shot, but the most common are mild and cause no need for concern. The side effects should not prevent you from getting the flu vaccine because it is a very important element in fighting the flu virus. However, there are a few groups of people that should not get the flu shot. This includes those that had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine before, those that currently have a high fever and those with egg allergies or allergies to other ingredients in the vaccine.

As a general rule of thumb, unless you find yourself in one of the groups listed above, then you should get the flu shot each year to lessen your chance of getting the flu, reducing your symptoms, and lessening the spread of the virus.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My father has had a cough for sometime now. He insists it's just a cold, but we're worried it could be more. Could it be walking pneumonia?

Yes, it is possible that it could be walking pneumonia, but it could even just be a lingering symptom of a cold like your dad said. However, it is important to know when a cough is more than just a cough because it could actually be a more serious condition like the walking pneumonia you suggested, or chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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What are some ways that seniors can boost their immune systems against colds and the flu?

The first way that seniors can prevent a cold or flu is by making sure that they receive their flu shot. Maintaining a healthy diet, and especially vitamin C, will also help to keep a senior's immune system in top-notch condition. Combine that with regular exercise to promote circulation and heart health, as well as a regular sleeping cycle and proper hydration and an elderly adult is well on their way to helping their body prevent illness.

Finally, one last word of advice. Seniors should always consult with their doctor before adding any new supplements or vitamins to their regimen.

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