Possible Side Effects Of Flu Vaccines: What You Need To Know

By:    Published: October 30, 2011

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Each year when winter rolls around, you'll see the same commercials, advertisements and articles telling you how important it is to get your flu vaccine. While getting this vaccine is a no-brainer for some people, there are plenty of other individuals who are concerned about the possible side effects of getting vaccinated against the flu. If you have concerns about this particular type of vaccination, read this article to learn the truth about the potential risks and complications involved.

Types of Flu Vaccines

First, it's important to learn about the different kinds of flu vaccines you can get. There are currently two types of flu vaccines available - the flu shot and the flu spray. The flu shot, which involves a standard injection with a needle, is the more traditional route. However, the vaccine can also be applied with a nasal spray called FluMist.

If you are considering getting the flu vaccine, whether you get the shot or the spray, keep in mind that your vaccination is only good for one year. The vaccine is altered every year according to the current strains of the flu going around, so it's important to remember that your flu vaccine from last year isn't sufficient for protecting you from the flu this year.

Typical Side Effects

There are several standard side effects which come with getting the flu vaccine. These are normal reactions that many - but not all - individuals who get the flu vaccine may experience, and they are not considered harmful to your health:

  • Soreness, redness or slight swelling at the site of the injection
  • Cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, headaches and body aches
  • Low-grade fever
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Vomiting (only for children who have received FluMist)

These symptoms should not persist for more than a few days after getting your flu vaccine. If you find that these symptoms appear after the vaccination then do not go away for several days, see your doctor to ensure that you are not having an allergic reaction or experiencing the symptoms of another type of illness.

Potentially Dangerous Side Effects

Many people fear that getting the flu vaccine can actually cause them to get the flu rather than preventing it. However, this is actually impossible since the flu strain injected or sprayed into the person receiving the vaccine has been completely inactivated.

There is one potentially dangerous side effect to getting the flu vaccine. There is always the risk that an individual could have a life-threatening allergic reaction to the flu shot or spray. If an allergic reaction does occur, it will usually manifest itself within a few minutes of getting the vaccine. At most, the allergic reaction appears within a few hours. In any case, the chances of having an allergic reaction are much lower than the chances of getting a severe case of the flu, which can also be very dangerous for your health or even fatal. Therefore, it is safer for most individuals to get the flu vaccine.

Deciding Whether to Get the Flu Vaccines

There are many factors to weigh when you are deciding to get the flu vaccine. First, you should consider whether you have any of the following risk factors which make you a poor candidate for receiving the flu vaccine:

  • An allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past
  • Allergies to eggs (the flu vaccine is grown in eggs)
  • A history of having Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder which affects the body's immune system
  • Current illness, which may mean that you need to wait until you are better before getting the vaccine
  • Younger than six months of age

These are not risk factors that completely exclude you from getting the flu vaccine. Rather, in each of these cases, it may still be possible to get the flu vaccine if you wish. However, if you have any of these risk factors you need to consult your doctor before getting the vaccine. He or she can tell you whether the risk is worth it or not based on your personal circumstances.

While the side effects of the flu shot may seem inconvenient and uncomfortable, many people don't realize how serious the flu can be. For most people, the flu is not seriously harmful and they can recover within a few days. However, there are still thousands of deaths from the flu in the United States every year. Over the last 30 years, the number of annual deaths from the flu have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000. Additionally, thousands more suffer from serious complications from the flu, including bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, congestive heart failure, dehydration, asthma or the worsening of chronic medical conditions. For these reasons, it is very important to consider getting the flu shot unless you are at risk for serious complications.

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