December 8, 2022
Flu season, also known as influenza season, is kicking into full swing. As a result, you may be thinking more frequently about how to protect yourself and your family from the flu virus. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has experienced a relatively mild flu season for the past two years. However, based on observation of how flu season recently impacted the southern hemisphere (which battles flu half a year earlier than the northern hemisphere) this flu season is shaping up to be more intense. Even in average flu seasons, influenza infections can send hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital and, unfortunately, they can be fatal for tens of thousands of people.
Flu shots have been used successfully for many years and they have a high safety profile. However, many people have reasonable questions about flu shot side effects. Read on to learn more about what are the side effects of a flu shot, including answers to questions like “can I get flu from the flu vaccine,” and “does the senior flu shot have more side effects?”
Who should get their vaccine?
One of the best forms of protection that you have against a flu infection is a flu vaccine, otherwise known as the flu shot. The flu vaccine can help prevent you from getting seriously ill from the flu. It can help reduce the chance that you will spread the flu to others. And it can even prevent you from getting the flu in the first place. For more than a decade, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advocated that everyone who is age six months old and older, with certain exceptions, receive an annual flu shot. The flu shot is specially-created each season with consideration of what scientists suspect will be the most common strains of the flu virus. This year, there are flu vaccines available in nasal and injectable form, and the CDC has recommended three high-dose vaccines for people over the age of 65.
What are the side effects of a flu shot?
Like almost any medical intervention, the flu shot does carry with it the risk of side effects. For the injection form of the flu shot, there is a risk of soreness or tenderness in the local area where you receive the injection. There is also the risk of some bruising in this area, redness, hardness, swelling, or bleeding. These side effects are all temporary and should resolve after a couple of days.
After getting the flu shot, your immune system launches into high gear, mounting an immune response against the inactivated particles that were injected via the shot. This helps your body prepare to encounter the flu virus in the environment so that it can prevent you from getting a flu infection. The symptoms of this immune response (such as fatigue, nausea, headache, body aches, or elevated body temperature) are not symptoms of a flu infection. These side effects occur because your body is reacting to the flu shot in the exact way that it should. Said differently, the flu shot does not cause the flu.
What are the concerning signs after getting the flu shots?
The grand majority of people who receive a flu shot will not experience concerning side effects after the shot. However, it is important to be aware of the concerning signs that can occur that would make it necessary for you to
seek immediate medical attention. These warning signs relate to an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and they include the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the airway, eyes, lips, or tongue
- Feeling weak or pale
- Having a rapid heartbeat or feeling dizzy
According to the CDC, these concerning signs tend to occur right after you receive your injection, which is why you are recommended to wait at your clinic for about fifteen minutes after receiving any injection.
Are flu vaccines safe?
Yes, flu vaccines are safe. Flu vaccines have been safely given to hundreds of millions of people over the last several decades. Some research has shown a possibility of a rare neurologic condition, known as Guilla
in-Barré syndrome, developing after a flu shot. However, you are more likely to develop this condition from a flu infection itself than from the flu shot, which is why getting the flu vaccine is still the best form of protection.
Does the senior flu shot have more side effects?
This flu season, the CDC has recommended that older adults (over age 65) receive one of three high-dose types of the flu shot. This is because older adults tend to have a weaker immune system, so it may take a higher dose of the vaccine for them to create a strong enough immune response to protect them from getting the flu. Because the vaccine is a higher dose, you may wonder if this so-called “senior flu shot” has more side effects. You can have more local side effects because of the higher dose—such as an arm that is a bit sensitive, or tenderness in the area of injection that lasts a bit longer. However, these side effects are very temporary. Older adults may also experience more side effects related to an immune reaction, such as muscle aches, tiredness or headache.
Older adults have a higher risk of getting severely ill if they get the flu, so despite an increased chance of side effects from the high-dose flu shot, it is still an important way to protect yourself and loved ones from the flu this season.
How to get a flu shot?
Like any medicine, the flu shot may cause side effects. However, these side effects are typically mild and short-lived. The bottom line on flu prevention this year is that the CDC recommends that everyone who is age six months or older receive a flu vaccine. Adults over age 65 should receive a high-dose flu vaccine.
If you would like to get a flu shot, timing is of the essence. Getting your flu shot now can help protect you over the holidays and for several months into 2023. To get a flu shot with the Healthcare Associates of Texas, contact us today.
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