Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a common but dangerous illness that affects thousands of people every year. You can significantly reduce the risk of catching the flu by getting a flu shot every year, preferably at the beginning of the season. A small number of people experience side effects following a vaccination, and although these are generally mild, in some cases there may be a more severe reaction. Severe, life-threatening reactions are very rare, and when they do occur, it’s usually immediate –within a few minutes to a few hours.
Some people develop a fever within a few hours to a few days after getting a flu shot; as long as it remains under 101 degrees, it’s considered mild and isn’t too concerning. However, a fever above 101 degrees is unusual, so you should call a doctor. Other serious side effects of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. Swelling around the lips and eyes, hives, and paleness may also occur, and hoarseness while speaking. Any sudden changes in behavior, or confusion, should be cause for concern.
Some people cannot get a flu shot. Children younger than six months old, and of course. people with a known allergy to flu vaccines; people with allergies to certain ingredients in the vaccines, such as gelatin and antibiotics, should also be careful and discuss it with their doctor first.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Report System (VAERS), run jointly by the FDA and the CDC, is a program that watches over the safety of all vaccines administered in the United States. Both medical professionals and patients are able, and encouraged, to report adverse reactions to any immunization. These reports help VAERS track any and all potential problems with the vaccines; they may not be able to establish a definite link between a vaccine and an allergic reaction, but they can monitor and investigate if needed. Even if you’re not positive that your reaction was caused by the vaccine, you should you report it anyway.