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Can Flu Shots Make You Sick?

The new flu season is right around the corner, which means the push to get you vaccinated is about to ramp up. In the United States, flu season typically runs from October to May. Many people wonder if the flu shot is worth it and are worried the flu shot can make them sick— as in infecting them with the flu. We are here to help clear up any flu shot misconceptions.

The myth that the flu vaccine will give someone the flu is the most common mistaken belief that leads people to avoid the flu shot. The virus in the vaccine is not active, and an inactive virus cannot transmit disease. Therefore, it’s physically impossible to get the flu from the flu shot. Because the flu virus evolves every year, different strains are more prevalent from year to year, meaning you need a yearly vaccine to protect yourself against the flu.

All persons aged 6 months and older are recommended for annual flu vaccination, with rare exceptions, according to the CDC.

It is not uncommon to feel under the weather after you receive a flu vaccine. In fact, this is a welcome sign. When you receive the flu shot, your body recognizes the inactive flu virus as a foreign invader, which causes your immune system to develop antibodies to attack the flu virus if or when you get exposed to it in the future. So, while you may experience some unpleasant side effects, none will be as bad as if you contracted the flu.

One of the most common side effects of receiving a flu shot is usually redness, soreness, and swelling at the injection site. It is temporary and should only last a few days. You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help deal with a sore arm. You can also put a warm compress on the area to ease any discomfort.

You may also find that you have a slight fever and body aches. This reaction usually appears on the first day after receiving the flu vaccine and will ease up in about two days or less. Sometimes the flu vaccine could also trigger a headache. Over-the-counter pain relievers will help ease these symptoms.

Although extremely rare, it is possible to develop an allergic reaction to the flu shot. Typically, these symptoms appear within minutes of receiving the vaccine. These symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling around nose and mouth
  • Hives
  • Dizziness

Unless you have severe or life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredients in it, you should roll up your sleeves for a flu shot each year.

People with severe allergies, those who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome, or who feel ill should consult a physician first.

Getting sick with the flu is more dangerous than many people think. While most people will recover from the flu, some people can develop complications from the influenza virus, which can include sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, and inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle.

So, dealing with a sore arm or some mild body aches is way better than the alternative.

If you or a loved one needs a flu vaccine, you can walk right into the closest American Family Care (AFC). There is no appointment necessary. Most locations are open seven days a week and ready to treat you. Click here to find an AFC location nearest you.

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