Risks go along with everything in life, including getting vaccinated. That doesn’t mean you should stay away from needles altogether. Vaccinations such as the flu shot could save your life. Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine and its potential risks.
The risks of getting a flu shot
The first flu shot myth that should be debunked is that you can actually get the flu from the flu shot. that’s simply not true. The viruses in the flu shot are inactive (meaning they’re not alive, so they can’t multiply the same way a live virus or bacteria could in the body), which means the risk of the influenza vaccine causing you serious harm is extremely low. The real risk surrounds allergic reactions.
The flu vaccine is grown in eggs, so anyone who is allergic to eggs or may have a sensitivity to them should speak with her doctor before getting the shot. That doesn’t make the shot off limits, though. Recently, a panel of researchers representing the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations said some patients with egg allergies can still be vaccinated against the flu.
The basic side effects
While most people shouldn’t experience problems or a reaction to the vaccine itself, several side effects could crop up immediately after the shot is administered. These include:
- Redness, swelling and localized pain around the needle injection site
- Sore, red or itchy eyes
- A dry cough
- A mild fever
- Minor aches and pains
- Lethargy and decreased energy
Flu shot Reaction symptoms
In some cases, people react adversely to the flu shot. If you receive the vaccine and you develop any of these signs of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, contact your doctor and head to the emergency room immediately. Coping with these symptoms is not something you can do on your own:
- Severe swelling in your limbs or joints
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Numbness in your limbs
- A tight feeling in your windpipe
While rare, these reactions generally develop within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot is received.
Another serious potential risk involves Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). In 1976, a number of individuals developed the illness — characterized by a high fever and nerve damage — after receiving the swine flu shot. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that in 1976 the risk of developing GBS after receiving the influenza vaccine increased by one in 100,000. While a similar increase has not been seen since, researchers — including those at the Mayo Clinic — remain alert to the issue and are ready to respond if an association again arises.