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Flu vaccine and side effects

Having an annual flu jab every autumn to protect again seasonal flu is recommended by the NHS for people in at-risk groups, such as people with long-term medical conditions and pregnant women.

Many children are offered flu vaccination using a nasal spray.

Flu vaccination needs to be done every year to maintain protection - as flu viruses keep evolving. The vaccine that was appropriate last year may not be as helpful this year.

Each year, scientists around the world assess the most likely threats from different strains of flu to be included in the vaccine. This means the vaccine may be less effective some years than others if predictions are wrong.

Side effects of flu vaccination

Side effects from the annual vaccination are rare, but some discomfort is possible, as well as more serious side effects affecting a small number of people.

As it does not contain a live virus, the flu vaccination cannot cause the flu.

What are some of the possible side effects of the flu jab?

You may experience soreness and/or swelling in your arm at the injection site after getting a flu jab.

Some people have cold-like symptoms, including a mild fever, sniffles, headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough and muscle aches for a day or two after getting the flu jab.

It is important to note that the benefits of getting a flu jab far outweigh the risk of flu vaccine side effects.

The flu vaccine works by causing antibodies to develop in your body. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the flu virus. This antibody reaction may cause fatigue and muscle aches in some people.

Coping with flu jab side effects

If an arm is sore from the jab:

  • Move the arm regularly and don’t allow it to get stiff or sore
  • Try a heat pack or warm compress on the affected area
  • If the arm feels hot and sore, try an ice pack wrapped in a towel
  • Take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Who should not have the flu jab?

Serious allergic reactions, and anaphylaxis, to the flu vaccines is very rare, but healthcare staff administering the injections are trained to deal with any adverse reactions.

Don't have the flu jab if:

  • You have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu jab in the past
  • You have a severe allergy to hen’s eggs - it may be possible to have an egg-free flu vaccination.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 26, 2017

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