Story by: Menisa Marshall; Reviewed by Lacey A. Conway, APRN on October 13, 2023
After getting the flu vaccine, some people may feel lousy for a bit, causing them to wonder “can you get the flu from the flu shot?”
If you have a mild headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches or fatigue after getting the flu shot, it’s because your body is doing what it should. The vaccine triggers your immune system to gear up to fight off a real infection and that can feel like you have a mild case of the flu.
The immune response side effects only last for a day or two. Plenty of water and acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can help relieve side-effects.
The flu vaccine uses dead viruses to spark the immune response. You can still get an influenza infection after your annual flu shot, but it’s less likely and with your immune system primed to fight it off, you are less likely to have severe symptoms.
The injected flu vaccine is made from dead flu virus or proteins from the flu virus. Neither can cause infection.
“Even a healthy person can’t predict how serious a case of the flu might be,” said Lacey A. Conway, APRN, a family medicine provider with Norton Community Medical Associates primary care in Bardstown. “Preventing the flu is the best way to keep from potentially winding up in the hospital, or perhaps the emergency department or an immediate care center.”
READ MORE: What is influenza B?
Flu season runs through March, and while it’s best to get your shot early, the vaccine still can provide protection later in the season. Influenza vaccine is available across Louisville and Southern Indiana. If you think you have the flu, consult with your health care provider, especially if you are immunocompromised.
A severe allergic reaction to the flu shot is very rare. If breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness occur it is usually within a few minutes or hours after receiving the influenza vaccine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An allergic reaction to the flu vaccine is unlikely, but you should let the medical provider giving you the vaccine that you have a history of allergy or severe reaction to the flu vaccine or a part of the flu vaccine, including an egg allergy.
This untrue advice is a spin-off of another internet claim that advises putting an antibacterial such as Neosporin ointment in your nostrils before air travel to zap germs. Any protection offered by an antibiotic ointment would affect only bacteria. A virus causes the flu, so antibacterials are of no help.
Current CDC guidelines recommend yearly flu vaccination against for almost everyone 6 months of age and older, including pregnant women. Flu complications can include severe illness and cause hospitalization or death among otherwise healthy children and adults of all ages.
The influenza virus will not respond to antibiotics, which affect bacteria, not viruses.
Antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, can help lessen the flu’s impact. Antivirals need to be taken within 48 hours of the first sign of symptoms. Additionally, over-the-counter fever reducers (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) and congestion fighters can offer some relief.
Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, but hand washing alone cannot keep you from getting the flu. Influenza is spread through the air via saliva droplets that can land on you and get into your nose, mouth and eyes. The flu can live up to eight hours on surfaces, so you can pick it up by touching contaminated surfaces. Do wash your hands often with soap and water, but the No. 1 way to avoid the flu is to get the flu shot.
Common flu symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, cough and muscle or body aches. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, however these are more common in children than adults.
“If you are mildly ill with flu symptoms, seeing your health provider or visiting an immediate care center are good options,” Lacey said. “The important thing is not to ignore flu symptoms, especially if they seem to be getting worse.”
Select an appointment date and time from available spots listed below.