Flu Shot Vs Covid Vaccines
Since the COVID-19 vaccines started rolling out in December 2020, over 67% of the U.S. population have received at least one dose. Some people reported side effects of the COVID shot that kept them home in bed for a day or two.
While the COVID vaccine does not protect against the flu the side effects of the vaccines are similar. A sore arm where the shot was given, fatigue, fever, and body aches, can happen with either vaccine.
It’s also completely safe to get both shots at the same time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the green light for people to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot, along with other vaccines that they might be due for, at the same visit.
According to the CDC, the immune response that is triggered after you get a vaccine is usually the same whether you get one shot at a time or multiple shots at once.
Flu Shot Side Effects : What’s Normal And What’s Cause For Concern
All vaccines have the potential to cause side effects, and that includes your yearly flu shot. But most are totally normal.
The coronavirus is still a very real concern this fall, but so is the influenza virus, aka the flu. The good news is we have very safe and effective tools for fighting and preventing both potentially deadly viruses, thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine.
According to the CDC, flu shots are safe and one of the best ways to keep from getting and spreading the flu to others. And people who get vaccinated and get sick anyway often experience less severe symptoms. If you’re thinking of getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu, the CDC says it is safe to get both vaccines together .
The simple fact is, flu vaccines can save lives. There are plenty of myths out there about the flu vaccine, such as the idea that it can give you the flu. While that’s not true, you can experience some side effects from the flu shot. The side effects are usually mild and nothing to worry about, but it’s important to know about them so you’re not worried when you get your vaccine.
Below, Dr. Carmen Teague, specialty medical director at Atrium Health‘s Mecklenburg Medical Group shares what you need to know about common flu shot side effects that are normal, and which side effects may be a sign of something more serious.
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Why Babies Should Get The Flu Shot
Young children who catch the flu get pneumonia at higher rates than older kids and can become dehydrated more easily. They may also develop ear infections, sinus problems, and a worsening of conditions like asthma or heart disease.
Since 2010, flu-related complications have led to 7,000 to 26,000 hospitalizations per flu season in children younger than 5 years old, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention . The flu can also cause death in rare cases. Indeed, the CDC estimates that between 130 and 1,200 children have died from the flu each year since 2010.
Vaccinated babies have a decreased chance of contracting the flu. And if they do catch influenza, the flu shot can make the illness less severe, which decreases the risk of hospitalization and death.
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What Is An Adverse Event
An adverse event following immunization is a serious or unexpected reaction that happens after someone receives a vaccine. An adverse event may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.
It is important to note that most children who have an adverse event following immunization can safely get immunized again. Your health care provider will tell you what is recommended for your child.
Learn more about vaccine safety monitoring and adverse events here.
Symptoms Vs Side Effects
If your child feels unwell after getting the flu vaccine, it is understandable to assume that it was related to the shot. However, it may just be a coincidence, especially if your child is in daycare or around other sick children.
It is important to differentiate this because some parents will attribute a symptom or illness to the flu shot and swear to never use it again. This would increase the risk of the child catching influenza and developing a serious complication. Before drawing a conclusion, ask yourself a few questions:
In the unlikely event your child has the same reaction year after year, then it is probably not a coincidence. You may need to avoid the flu shot and speak with your pediatrician about using FluMist as an alternative.
You should also report the reaction to the Vaccine Adverse Event Report System, a safety surveillance program managed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Type Of Vaccine For Children
Children will get a nasal spray vaccine. It’s called the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine nasal spray vaccine. It’s known by the brand name Fluenz Tetra and manufactured by AstraZeneca AB.
This flu vaccine is approved for children aged 2 to 17 years.
If your child has been told they cannot have the nasal flu vaccine, talk to your GP or pharmacist about them getting the vaccine as an injection.
If your child is under 2 years and at risk of complications from flu, they can get a different type of flu vaccine by injection instead of the nasal spray.
Most children only need 1 dose of the vaccine each season. Some children aged 2 to 8 years with chronic health conditions may need 2 doses if they have never had the flu vaccine before. Your GP or pharmacist will know if they need 2 doses. The doses are given 4 weeks apart.
Alternatives For Preventing The Flu
Examples of other vaccines that may be used to help prevent the flu include:
- trivalent, high-dose flu shot
- quadrivalent flu shot made in eggs
- quadrivalent flu shot, egg-free
You may wonder how FluMist compares with other vaccinations that are for similar uses. Here we look at how FluMist and Fluzone are alike and different.
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Why Do Some People Not Feel Well After They Get The Flu Shot
The flu shot is given during the cold and flu season, and its possible that those who have gotten the flu shot have already been exposed to viruses in their community, which may leave them with symptoms. Other symptoms, like fever and achiness, may occur after vaccination and are usually brief side effects of the vaccine.
Is It Ok To Get Flumist If I Have Diabetes
You may not be able to get FluMist if you have diabetes, including both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. This is because diabetes can weaken your immune system.
FluMist is a live vaccine, which means it has live flu viruses in it that have been weakened so that they shouldnt infect you with the flu. If your immune system is healthy, it should be able to fight the flu viruses in the vaccine. But if your immune system is weakened due to diabetes, you may not be able to fight the viruses in the vaccine.
If you have diabetes, your doctor will probably recommend that you get a flu shot instead of FluMist. Flu shots arent live vaccines. For details, see Live vs. inactive vaccine in the FluMist vs. flu shot section above.
If you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you, talk with your doctor.
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Flumist And Other Vaccines
Heres some information on whether FluMist can be given at the same time as other vaccines.
FluMist is a live vaccine. This means that FluMist has live flu viruses in it that have been changed so that they shouldnt infect you with the flu. Inactive vaccines, on the other hand, dont have live viruses in them.
FluMist and inactive vaccines
FluMist hasnt been studied when given with inactive vaccines.
Examples of inactive vaccines include:
If you plan to get FluMist and think you need an inactive vaccine, ask your doctor when the best time is to get them.
FluMist and other live vaccines
FluMist is a live vaccine. It has been studied when given with other live vaccines.
One study looked at children ages 12 to 15 months. They received FluMist alone or FluMist with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and chickenpox vaccines. There was no difference in how the childrens bodies reacted to the vaccines in either group. However, its important to note that FluMist isnt approved for use in children ages 12 to 15 months. The vaccine is approved to be used only in children and adults ages 2 through 49 years.
Examples of other live vaccines include:
How Does Influenza Spread To Children
Children play a major role in the spread of influenza in their communities because high numbers are exposed to the influenza viruses at schools and day care centers. Overall, as many as 30% of children may become infected during a regular flu season, and in some day care settings, as many as 50% of children can get the flu. Healthy children may limit the spread of influenza virus by staying home when ill, covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and washing their hands with either soap and water or with alcohol-based products.
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What Are Potential Flu Vaccine Side Effects In Children
The available influenza vaccine is prepared from killed influenza virus. As such it cannot give you the disease. Side effects generally are less intense and shorter in duration than the actual disease. There are several potential minor side effects that may follow vaccination against influenza and mimic symptoms of the illness. There are also very rare serious side effects that may occur.
Minor side effects include
Serious side effects include the following:
- Young children who receive flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine , and/or DTaP vaccine at the same time have a slight risk of having a seizure associated with a fever. Such occur in 3% of all children during the course of an illness. Such seizures are not associated with neurological handicaps. You should inform your child’s pediatrician if your child has ever had a seizure.
Allergic Reactions To The Flu Shot
Though the side effects listed above are normal reactions to the flu vaccine, it’s important to monitor your response to the vaccine to make sure that you are not having an allergic reaction.
Though allergic reactions are rare they occur in an estimated 1.3 of every 1 million vaccinations they can be serious.
Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine include:
- Trouble breathing
- Fast heartbeat
According to McNeil, these symptoms usually occur “within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the shot and they require immediate medical evaluation and treatment.”
The flu shot, like all vaccines, contains several components that can cause an allergic reaction. Most allergic reactions are caused by an allergy to egg protein, gelatin, or other additives in the vaccine. While the flu shot contains trace amounts of egg, research has shown that most people with mild egg allergies can receive influenza vaccines.
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Benefits Of The Flu Shot
Overall, flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu and can reduce the severity of its symptoms if you do get sick. This means less missed school for kids, less missed work for parents and fewer doctors visits for both, says Dr. Johnson. Vaccination also protects people around you, especially those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, including babies and young children.
In children, flu vaccination can be lifesaving. A 2017 CDC study showed that the flu shot significantly reduces a childs risk of dying from the flua reduced risk of 51% among children with high-risk, underlying medical conditions and a reduced risk of 65% among healthy childrenCDC Study Finds Flu Vaccine Saves Lives. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 10/05/2021. . Other research shows that during the flu seasons from 2004 to 2020, flu-related deaths in children ranged from 37 to 199 deathsand about 80% of those children were not fully vaccinatedFlu & Young Children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 10/05/2021. .
Getting the flu shot also reduces the risk of hospitalization from the flu. A 2014 study showed that the vaccine was 74% effective in preventing a child from being sent to a pediatric intensive care unit Ferdinands JM, Olsho LEW, Agan AA, et al. Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccine Against Life-threatening RT-PCR-confirmed Influenza Illness in US Children, 20102012. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2014 210:674-683. .
What Is The Contagious Period For Flu In Children
Children with influenza may be able to infect others beginning one day before they develop any symptoms and may remain contagious for up to seven more days or sometimes even longer. Some children may be able to transmit the flu to others even though they, themselves, do not feel very sick. Because transmission can occur before a patient has any symptoms, the flu spreads rapidly. A usual school/work requirement is to be fever free for 24 hours before returning to the classroom or workplace.
Symptoms usually begin two to four days after exposure to the virus and typically develop quickly.
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What Side Effects Could Occur Following The Flu Shot
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists several minor problems that can occur after receiving the flu vaccine. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Less common are cough, fever, aches, and headaches. Rarely, more serious adverse effects may occur, including a neurologic condition, Guillain-Barré Syndrome , or severe allergic reaction, which occurs approximately once every million doses of vaccine given.
For minor side effects such as redness and swelling, apply a cold pack to the injection site and give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Flu Shot Side Effects For Children And Toddlers
The flu shot is made with an inactivated flu virus, so it can’t give you influenza, says Daisy Dodd, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease doctor for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Even so, people can have minor side effects after receiving the shot. Child and toddler flu shot side effects include:
- Soreness, redness, or discomfort in the injection site. This localized reaction is the most common side effect, says Dr. Ahmed.
- Body aches
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Who Should Not Get The Nasal Flu Vaccine
- have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients
- have severe asthma or if they have been wheezy or needed their inhaler more than usual in the 3 days before the vaccination
- are taking medicines called salicylates, which include aspirin
- have taken influenza antiviral medication within the previous 48 hours
- have a severely weakened immune system because of certain medical conditions or treatments
- are living with someone who has a severely weakened immune system – for example, a person who has to live in insolation in the months following a bone marrow transplant
- have a condition which means they have a leak of cerebrospinal fluid – the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
- have severe neutropoenia , except for those with primary autoimmune neutropenia
- are on combination checkpoint inhibitors, for example ipilumumab plus nivolumab, which are used to treat cancer
- are pregnant
- have a cranial cerebrospinal fluid leak
Your child may not be able to have the nasal flu vaccine if they have had a cochlear implant. Ask your child’s hearing specialist if your child can have the nasal flu vaccine.
Get specialist advice if your child needs regular oral steroids or they have previously needed ICU care for asthma.
How Safe Is The Flu Vaccine
The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and can include:
- mild soreness where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.
- a mild fever or aches for the first day or 2 after immunization.
Do not give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen before or around the time of vaccination as it does not prevent the pain of injection and it could have an impact on how well the vaccine works. These medications can be used to treat fever, pain, or other bothersome side effects if they develop after vaccination.
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Serious Side Effects Are Very Rare
Some people might have a more serious reaction to a vaccine, like a high fever. Sometimes a high fever can cause a seizure, called a Febrile seizures which happen more commonly in infants and young children, look serious, but almost never are, and children recover with no lasting effects. Children who have a febrile seizure after getting a vaccine are also more likely to have a febrile seizure if they have a fever for another reason, such as a viral or bacterial infection.
Very rarely, a person will have a true serious reaction to a vaccine, like a severe allergic reaction . The chance of this occurring is between one in 100,000 and one in a million. Just in case, you will always be asked to wait 15 minutes after receiving a vaccine before leaving. If this reaction occurs, health care providers are trained to recognize and treat it.