Seasonal influenza (or what is commonly called “the flu”) is a contagious respiratory condition caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat and potentially the lungs. It causes symptoms that range from mild to severe. In some people with complicating factors, the flu can lead to death.
The most effective way to avoid contracting the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccines have a good safety record, having been given to hundreds of millions of Americans over the past 50 years and studied extensively. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine unless they have a health condition that their doctor believes makes them a poor candidate for the vaccine.
While the side effects from the flu tend to be much less unpleasant than contracting the flu, it is important to know what to expect after getting the flu vaccine.
Flu Shot Side Effects
Common side effects from the flu shot include:
- Redness, soreness, and swelling at the site of injection
- Mild headache
- Low-grade fever
- Mild muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
Some people who become dizzy or faint when receiving injections of any kind may have the same reaction to the flu shot. The flu vaccine can also be administered as a nasal spray. Side effects from the spray may include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
With either form of flu vaccine, the reactions tend to last less than two days.
Serious Flu Shot Side Effects
Serious side effects from the flu vaccine are rare. If they do occur, it is typically within a few hours of getting the shot. They can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness and dizziness
- Fast heartbeat
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.
In very rare cases, people have experienced Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after getting the flu vaccine. GBS is a neurologic condition that causes weakness and paralysis throughout your body. It is currently unclear whether the vaccine was actually the cause of GBS in these cases.
An Effective Way to Keep the Flu at Bay
Seasonal influenza is an illness that can be debilitating for a number of days. The flu vaccine can greatly lessen your risk of getting the flu, with only a small chance of typically minor, short-lived side effects. If you have questions about the vaccine and your personal risk of side effects, your doctor can provide more information. Visit our Urgent and Express Care locations to get your flu shot today.