Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

Common side effects of the flu vaccine include fever, mild muscle aches, and headache. These side effects are more common if you have never had the flu before or if you are getting the flu vaccine for the first time.

Some people experience a full-blown case of the flu right after they receive their flu shot, which often makes them hesitate to get the flu shot in the future. This happens to a lot of people. Most people do not get the flu vaccine before the flu season starts. They are motivated only after people all around them are coming down with the flu, then they hurry to the doctor's office to get their flu shot. Since it takes at least two weeks for the flu vaccine to bolster your immune system, you are completely vulnerable in the interim.

Essential

Many people believe that getting the flu shot actually makes you get the flu, but this is impossible. The flu shot (the injectable form of the flu vaccine) is made from dead flu virus. Killed flu virus cannot cause an infection because the virus is already dead.

What happens to these people is that they were already exposed to the flu a day or two before they got the flu shot, and the incubation period for the flu is one to three days. So it makes sense that they soon become symptomatic after the vaccination. Naturally, it would appear that the flu vaccine made them sick, but in reality they are coming down with the flu before the flu vaccine had a chance to protect them. This is the reason why you should get vaccinated before the flu season starts.

Even though most people only experience mild reactions after the flu vaccine, two serious complications may occur after the flu vaccine. Fortunately, they are extremely rare (about a one in a million chance), but these reactions could be life threatening.

The first one is a whole-body allergic reaction to the egg component in the vaccine. This reaction is called anaphylaxis, and it causes your entire body to swell up. If the swelling is not immediately stopped with medication, it could cause your throat to collapse and you may die from asphyxiation.

Alert

The safety profile and side effects of the new H1N1 flu (swine flu) vaccine is unknown at the time the manuscript of this book was prepared. Please consult your doctor for the most current information and recommendation about this vaccine.

The other serious problem that has been caused by the flu vaccine is Guillain Barré Syndrome. This is a condition where your own immune system goes haywire and attacks the nerves inside your spinal cord. You may lose sensation of your arms and legs and become temporarily paralyzed if you develop this problem. People rarely die from Guillain Barré Syndrome, but a few people may never regain the full use of their arms and legs.

Finally, certain people are at higher risk for developing serious problems after getting the flu vaccine. If you belong to the groups of people described in the following list, you should not get the flu vaccine.

  • Children less than six months of age (the flu vaccine is not approved for this age group because it has never been tested for children younger than six months).

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

  • People who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination.

  • People who developed Guillain Barré Syndrome within six weeks of getting a flu vaccine.

  • People who have a moderate to severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated).

Of course, if you still have questions about whether you are eligible for getting the flu vaccine, the best source of information is your doctor. Give her a call and make sure you have all of your questions answered satisfactorily.

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