It’s that time of year: everywhere you turn, someone is telling you to get a flu shot.
However, you will likely also hear that the flu vaccine can actually give you the flu since it’s filled with the virus.
So, let’s dig deeper into whether or not there is any truth to that or if you should go get your flu shot ASAP.
What is the Flu Vaccine?
Before getting vaccinated against the flu, and determining if said vaccination will actually get you sick, it’s important to know exactly what the flu shot is.
Essentially, by getting the flu vaccine, it causes antibodies to develop in your body (typically within two weeks of the shot) that keep your body protected against the viruses in the vaccine.
Every year, before the vaccine is created, it is determined what strains of the flu will be most common during the upcoming season.
These strains are then put into the shot so your body can fight them off before you get sick.
Is the Flu Vaccine Effective?
Another good question to ask before getting the flu shot is whether or not it actually works.
The short answer is that the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine varies from year to year, depending on the “match” between the viruses that are in the shot and those that are actually circulating.
How effective the flu shot is can also be dependent on the age and general health of the individual getting the vaccine.
Can You Get Sick from the Shot?
Now that you have learned what the flu vaccine actually does and if it actually works, you’re likely wondering if the shot is going to make you sick.
The good news is: no, the flu vaccine will not give you the flu.
Some people may experience mild side effects from the flu shot including soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the vaccine was giving.
In some instances, you may experience a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches.
Typically, these side effects begin immediately after the shot is given and only last for up to two days.
It is very uncommon for someone to experience a serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine.
If this does happen, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot is received.
Why Do Some People Get the Flu After the Shot?
There are instances where someone may receive the flu shot and end up getting the flu afterwards.
It is important to note that this does not happen as a result of the flu shot; even if you are vaccinated, it is possible to get sick with the flu if:
- You have been exposed to the either before you received the shot or during the time frame where your body is adapting to the vaccine and gaining protection (this may take up to two weeks after you’ve been vaccinated)
- You are exposed to a strain of the flu that is not included in the vaccine
- You develop less immunity after being vaccinated (this may happen to someone who is older or someone with a chronic illness/weakened immune system)
It is also possible that someone who received the flu shot develops another illness—such as the common cold, pneumonia or bronchitis—which mimic the symptoms of the flu.
Because these illnesses usually spread during the flu season, they are often confused with the flu.
(Check out the difference between the common cold and the flu here.)
Are There Benefits to Getting the Flu Shot Twice?
Studies have revealed there are no added benefits to getting more than one flu shot, even in older adults who have a weaker immune system.
Does the Flu Shot Help If I Get Sick?
Not only does the flu shot help prevent you from developing the flu, it also offers benefits for those who do get sick.
If you get sick with the flu, you are likely to have a less severe illness if you have gotten the flu shot versus those who have not.
A study done in 2017 showed that the flu vaccine reduced the number of flu-related deaths as well as intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay and overall duration of flu patients who had to be hospitalized.
Who Should Get the Flu Shot?
Healthcare experts recommend that anyone who is older than six months of age get a flu shot every year.
If you are pregnant, over the age of 50, suffer from a weakened immune system or spend time regularly with those who are at risk for flu complications, it is especially important that you get the flu vaccine.
There are certain people who should not get vaccinated, including anyone who has suffered from an allergic reaction to flu shots in the past, anyone who is currently suffering from a fever and anyone who is allergic to eggs.
If you’ve had Guillain-Barré syndrome, you should also avoid the flu shot.
When Should You Get the Flu Shot?
It is important that you get vaccinated before the flu season is in full swing.
Although the timing of the flu may vary from year to year, it can begin as early as October and November and can continue as late in the year as May.
Because it takes about two weeks after getting the flu shot for the antibodies to develop in the body, you should aim to get the shot in early fall (by the end of October at the latest).
If you have not gotten vaccinated by the end of October, don’t worry; the shot is effective throughout the flu season as late as January.
Visit CareNow® For Your Annual Flu Shot
If you have not gotten your flu shot yet, consider visiting your local CareNow®.
Walk-ins are always welcome or use our Web Check-In feature to wait from home before your visit.
Disclaimer: Patient’s health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.