Autoimmune Disease Management 101: Fighting Back

Questions Many Patients Want Answered Prior To Getting The Flu Vaccine

Getting a flu shot is a smart choice for your own health and also for the health of the population. However, as you sit down to get the shot, you might have a few questions. You may find some of them answered below.

Will you get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No. The flu vaccine is made from either completely dead or weakened viruses. Some versions do not even contain the whole virus—just certain viral proteins that trigger your immune system. Because of this formulation, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Some people do experience aches, headaches, and even a mild fever after the flu shot, but these are side effects caused by your immune system's reaction to the vaccine. They should only last a couple of days at most and are nothing to worry about.

Why do you need another flu shot if you got one last year?

Patients need a new flu vaccine every year even if they have already been immunized for the flu in previous years. This is because the flu virus mutates quickly. The form of the virus going around this year is likely different from the form that was going around last year, which means your shot from last year is no longer effective. You need a new shot with the new form of the flu virus for ongoing protection.

Can the shot cause serious side effects?

Serious side effects from the flu vaccine are very, very rare. In most cases, when they occur, they are due to an allergic reaction. People with allergies to eggs can have a serious reaction to the regular flu vaccine since it is made with certain egg proteins. Thankfully, there is a nasal vapor form of the flu vaccine that is safe for people with egg allergies. 

Will the flu shot keep you from getting the common cold, too?

No. The flu vaccine only protects against the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus. The common cold is caused by an array of other viruses, so the flu shot won't give you any protection. To protect yourself from the common cold, take other measures, such as always washing your hands after touching shared items, and keeping a distance from others while in public spaces.

For more information, reach out to your doctor or pharmacist. They can provide additional details about flu shot vaccinations.