Can I Get a Flu Shot When Sick?

A flu shot can help keep you healthy in the flu season, but the question is, "can you get a flu shot when sick?" Find out the answer and clear misconceptions about the flu vaccine.

Do you always feel worried about becoming sick in the flu season? You may be a good candidate for the flu vaccine that offers good protection against the flu. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already mentioned that everyone above 6 months of age should consider getting the flu vaccine. A flu shot may reduce your chances of becoming sick by 60%. This saves you from paying a visit to your healthcare provider for additional treatment. You may also experience other benefits of getting the vaccine – it reduces antibiotic use, saves you from hospitalizations, which in turn will save you from taking a leave from work. The question many people ask is, "Can you get a flu shot when sick?" Let's find out the answer.

Can You Get a Flu Shot When Sick?

The experts are of the view that you should avoid getting a flu shot if you're moderately or severely ill and already have a fever. You can however get a shot if you're not that ill. If your fever is over 101F, it is a good idea to wait for it to come down a bit to get the vaccine. The question many people ask is, "Why I cannot get a flu shot while sick?” It is mainly due to two reasons – you may prolong your illness when you get a shot while you're sick or you may not see any effects at all. Here's more about it:

Longer Recovery Time

Getting a flu vaccine will trigger an immune response in your body. In fact, the vaccine will trigger your immune system to produce antibodies that help fight off the influenza virus. If you're already sick, it means your immune system has already started producing antibodies and is trying to eliminate the influenza virus. Getting a shot is more likely to put pressure on your immune system, which is already at work. This may in turn prolong your recovery time.

Reduced Response to the Vaccine

As mentioned already, your immune system is at work when you're sick, so the strains of influenza present in the flu shot aren't going to work as effectively as they would if your immune system isn't working that hard.

Of course, there are chances that none of these two things would happen, but it is always a good idea to wait instead of getting a flu shot when sick.

Who Else Should Not Get a Flu Vaccine?

Many people ask, "Can I get a flu shot if I'm sick?" However, there are some other situations as well when you may not want to get a flu vaccine. For instance:

  • You should not take your child who is under 6 months of age for a flu shot
  • You may want to avoid a flu shot if you're allergic to eggs or other ingredients found in the vaccine. The list includes antibiotics, gelatin, and some more. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about it.
  • You may want to avoid taking a shot if you ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome (a paralyzing illness). Talk to your doctor and share your medical history with them before you decide to get the vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions About Flu Shot

1. Can a flu shot give you the flu?

No, it's not possible. Flu vaccines can be of two types. They may have flu vaccine viruses, but they are not active, so cannot cause infection. Other types of flu vaccines may not contain any flu vaccine viruses at all. You may experience some other side effects though, including redness, soreness, tenderness, or swelling.

2. Do you have to take the flu shot every year?

Yes, it is important that you take a flu shot regularly. This will help provide maximum immune protection, which in turn will protect you from the flu.

3. When should you get the flu shot?

You should get it by October, but you may consider getting one even in January or later throughout the flu season. It is worth mentioning that influenza outbreaks usually happen in October, but it may even go to January. You should take it before that time considering that it takes a couple weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and fight against the virus.

4. Will you be flu-free after getting the shot?

Unfortunately, you won't be flu free even after getting the shot. You may however increase your immunity by 60% after the shot, which is not bad really, and is usually enough to sail you through the flu season. Moreover, how well the vaccine works for you will depend on your age and current health condition. There should also be a match between the virus used in the vaccine and the virus circulating in the community.

Flu Shot or Nasal Spray, Which One to Choose?

Many people who decide to get a vaccine shot often get confused when they have to choose between a flu shot or nasal spray. The reality is that both the traditional flu shot and the nasal spray FluMist offer similar level of protection, but it is a good idea to learn more about the options to select what suits you more.

The Flu Shot

Your healthcare provider will inject the vaccine, containing inactivated influenza virus, into the upper arm. The side effects include mild fever and achiness and last a day or two. You will have the option to get intradermal shots using special injections with a smaller needle. It only enters your skin, not into the muscle. You may also ask for a high-dose flu shot if your immune system is weak already – it's a good choice if you're 65 or older.

The Nasal Flu Vaccine (FluMist)

You have to spray this live vaccine into your nose. Since it's a live vaccine, you may experience flu-like symptoms for a few days. These side effects may also include headache, runny nose, cough, and sore throat. The spray is suitable for anyone between 2 and 49 years of age. It's not a good choice for pregnant women, people who are taking aspirin, or people with weakened immune system. The good thing is that it's easy to take, and is usually a better choice for someone who's fears the needle. 

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