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Benefits and Risks of a Flu Shot

What Is A Flu Shot?

A flu shot is a vaccine given to prevent influenza, a virus that affects the respiratory system. This vaccine is important to prevent the risk of severe illness from flu.

What Is A Flu Shot?

How Safe Is The Flu Shot?

The flu vaccine is safe for all age groups of people. Before approving flu shots for public use the FDA carefully evaluates its safety and effectiveness.1 There is a certain group of people who should not be given this vaccine. They include:

  • Children below 6 months of age
  • Those allergic to egg and mercury
  • Those suffering from Guillain-Barr Syndrome
  • Those who develop a severe reaction to the flu vaccine

Benefits of Flu Shot

  • Prevents Flu
  • The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent becoming sick from the flu2
  • Even after getting a flu vaccine, one can get flu, but the symptoms would be very mild.
  • Lowers Risk Of Hospitalization

It is seen that the flu vaccine lowers the risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalization in older adults, pregnant women, children, and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular diseases(3, 4, 5)

Flu Vaccine Also Provides Protection Within The Community

The flu vaccine protects you from getting the flu. This in turn also protects those who cannot get vaccinated. This is called herd immunity and is very important.

Risks of Getting A Flu Shot

Even After The Flu Shot, You Can Catch The Flu

Sometimes even after getting a flu shot, you can catch the flu. After receiving the vaccine, it takes 2 weeks to develop immunity.(6) It is in this duration you can catch the flu.

Sometimes the reason for catching the flu is the vaccine wasn’t a good match. It is important to decide the strain many months before the flu season starts.

The flu shot or the vaccine is not effective if there is not a good match between the vaccine and the selected strain.

Allergic Reaction

Some people may get an allergic reaction to a flu shot. The symptoms can occur within a minute or hours after receiving the vaccine.

The Symptoms Include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rash and hives
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness and dizziness
  • Swelling around the eyes and mouth

It is important to bring it to the doctor’s notice if any of the symptom occur after getting the vaccine.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a condition in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nerves. The influenza vaccine can trigger the condition.
If suffering from Guillain-Bare syndrome, it is important to speak with the doctor before getting vaccinated.

Flu Vaccine And Babies

As recommended by the CDC, children above 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine.(7)

The side effects can be similar to those in adults. The symptoms include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore feeling at the injection site

Flu Shots And Pregnant Women

Pregnant females can get the seasonal flu shot in any trimester of pregnancy.(8)

This can help the mother as well as the baby. In the early months of breastfeeding the female can pass anti-influenza antibodies to the baby through breast milk.

How Frequently Should You Get A Flu Shot?

Flu vaccine should be given every year due to the following reasons:

  • The body’s immune response to influenza decreases over time. Taking vaccines every year can help you stay protected.
  • The influenza virus changes constantly. The strains present in the virus in the previous year may not be present in the succeeding year.(9) This is why a yearly flu vaccine is necessary, as it gets updated every year.
  • Flu is a widespread seasonal virus that can lead to severe illness and even death in some.
  • The safest way to prevent flu is to get a yearly flu shot. They are important for protecting vulnerable groups such as older adults, young children, and pregnant females.

Receiving a flu shot can be an effective way to prevent yourself and your family from developing flu.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 3, 2021

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