Flu Shot Side Effects: How Long Do They Last and How to Prepare

If the vaccine against influenza isn’t high on your to-do list, we need to talk. We understand: it can lead to side effects that you might not like. But flu season hit earlier and harder this year. And the flu vaccine remains the best way to avoid it. So we spoke to Dr. Timothy MurphyEmeritus Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York University at Buffaloto learn what side effects from the flu shot to expect and how to manage them.

Expert interviewed:

What side effects from the flu shot might I experience?

The good news: Many people experience no side effects from the flu shot other than arm pain, Dr. Murphy said. But if you have other symptoms, it may be a sign that your body is “making antibodies and making an immune response to the flu virus,” Dr. Murphy said. “So you can think of it like, ‘OK, these pains are good.'”

The most common side effects of the flu vaccine are:

And some less common side effects are:

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Urticaria

  • rapid heartbeat

  • Weakness

Side effects from the flu vaccine usually last a few days at most. And they’re usually sweet. But if you experience some of the rarer side effects, talk to your doctor AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Because it could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

And if you decide to get your COVID-19 Reminder at the same time as your flu shot (which, by the way, is completely safe), you may experience side effects a little more, Dr. Murphy said. “But, hey, that means your immune system is working.”

I understood. How can I deal with side effects from the flu vaccine?

Did you just get vaxxed? Here are some things Dr. Murphy recommended to help relieve side effects:

  • Ice any pain in your arm to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for arm pain, headache, muscle aches or low fever. To note: Some Experts I think taking some ibuprofen (hi, Advil) before you get vaccinated might not be the best decision, because it might “damp down the immune response a bit,” Dr. Murphy said. But taking it after is usually fine.

  • Herbal teaslike chamomile and ginger can be very helpful” for nausea, Dr. Murphy said.

Any suggestions on what to avoid after getting the flu shot?

According to Dr. Murphy, there are no restrictions on what you can do after getting your flu shot as long as you feel well. Even if your arm hurts, keep it moving “will increase blood flow and help it resolve faster,” he said.

Can the flu vaccine make you sick?

We have mentioned the possible side effects. But since there is no living flu in the vaccineyou can’t get the flu, Dr. Murphy said.

Flu shots can help you avoid getting the flu at all or at least a severe case of the flu. During the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that the vaccine prevented more than 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations.


Getting the flu shot, if you can, is the most effective way to reduce your risk of getting the flu and staying healthy this Winter. Even if it comes with annoying side effects. And you can grab some tea and Tylenol on the way out of the pharmacy if you’re worried about aches or pains.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition.

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