What Are the Pros and Cons of the Flu Shot?
Every winter, the influenza virus causes epidemics of flu in communities throughout the country.
Flu is highly contagious. It causes hundreds of thousandsTrusted Source of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.
The influenza vaccine is available every year to help protect people from coming down with flu. But is it safe?
Read on to learn about the benefits and risks of the flu shot.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
The flu vaccine is very safe, although there are some groups of people that shouldn’t get it. They include:
children less than 6 months of age
people who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients
Can you get the flu shot if you have an egg allergy?
What ingredients are in the flu shot?
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
A common worry is that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. This isn’t possible.
The injectable flu vaccine is made from an inactivated form of the influenza virus or virus components that can’t cause infection.
What are the benefits of the flu vaccine?
1. Flu prevention
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), receiving the influenza vaccine is the most effective wayTrusted Source to prevent yourself from becoming sick with the flu.
2. You may feel less sick
If you do get sick with the flu, your symptoms may be milder if you got the vaccination.
3. Lower risk of hospitalizations or complications in certain groups
Influenza vaccination has been shown to lead to a lower risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalizations in some groups. They include:
older adultsTrusted Source
pregnant women and their infantsTrusted Source
people with chronic conditions, such as diabetesTrusted Source, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular diseaseTrusted Source
4. Protection within the community
When you protect yourself from the flu through vaccination, you’re also protecting those who can’t get vaccinated from catching the flu. This includes those who are too young to get vaccinated.
What are the risks of the flu vaccine?
1. Still getting the flu
Sometimes you can get the flu shot and still come down with the flu. It takes around two weeksTrusted Source after receiving the vaccination for your body to develop immunity. During this time, you can still get catch the flu.
Another reason why you can still catch the flu is if there wasn’t a good “vaccine match.” Researchers need to decide on which strains to include in the vaccine many months before flu season actually starts. When there’s not a good match between the selected strains and the strains that actually end up circulating during flu season, the vaccine isn’t as effective.
2. Severe allergic reaction
Some people may have a negative reaction to the flu shot. If you have a negative reaction to the vaccine, symptoms usually occur within minutes to hours after receiving the vaccine. Symptoms may include:
rash or hives
swelling around the eyes and mouth
feeling weak or dizzy
If you experience these symptoms after getting the flu vaccine, see your doctor. If the reaction is severe, go to the emergency room.
3. Guillain-Barre syndrome
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare condition where your immune system begins to attack your peripheral nerves. It’s very rare, but influenza virus vaccination can trigger the condition.
If you’ve already had Guillain-Barre syndrome, speak to your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Injection vs. nasal spray vaccine
The influenza vaccine can be delivered as either an injection or as a nasal spray.
The flu shot can come in a variety of forms that protect against three or four influenza strains. Although no type of flu shot is recommended over others, you should speak to your doctor about which one is best for you.
The nasal spray contains a small dose of a live, but weakened form of the influenza virus. The nasal spray was not recommendedTrusted Source for the 2017 to 2018 influenza season due to concern for low levels of effectiveness.
Do I need to get the flu vaccine every year?
The flu vaccine is needed every year for two reasons.
The first is that your body’s immune response to influenza decreases over time. Receiving the vaccine every year helps you have continued protection.
The second reason is that the influenza virus is constantly changing. This means that the viruses that were prevalent in the previous flu season may not be in the upcoming season. The flu vaccine is updated every year to include protection against the influenza viruses most likely to circulate in the upcoming flu season.