We get it—no one likes getting shots. But the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this seasonal virus. Millions of people get their flu vaccine every year, and decades of research show that it’s safe, effective and generally causes few side effects.
Still, it’s a good idea to know what to expect after getting your annual shot—from what to avoid after your flu vaccine to the best self-care tips. Below, our Dr. B team shares all the answers.
And if you do get sick, we can help with that, too. Read on to learn how our $15 online flu consultations can help you determine whether an antiviral medication could help you recover faster.
Most people feel completely fine after getting their flu vaccine. Some people feel tired for a few days or develop pain or soreness in the arm where they got the injection. A few will develop a fever. In the majority of cases, these symptoms are mild and go away in a day or two.
The most common side effects of the flu vaccine are:
Very rarely, people have more serious side effects. Allergies to the flu vaccine can happen—but they’re uncommon. If you notice signs of an allergic reaction like itching, trouble breathing or swelling in your mouth or throat, get emergency medical help immediately.
Continuing your regular medications is okay unless your medical provider tells you otherwise. Very few medications interact with the vaccine—but check with your provider to be safe.
If you develop pain or a fever after getting your vaccine, using over-the-counter medications like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is fine. But some research suggests that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) can interfere with your body’s immune response to the vaccine. (Acetaminophen works differently than NSAIDs, so it doesn’t cause the same issue.)
As long as your symptoms are mild, you might want to skip NSAID medications for one or two days before your shot and up to a week after. If you regularly take aspirin or other NSAIDs (like Celebrex for arthritis), talk to your provider before stopping your medicine.
It’s okay to follow your regular diet. The only thing that you should potentially avoid is alcohol. Alcohol can cause side effects similar to the vaccine (like tiredness and headache), making you feel worse.
As always, it’s essential to support your immune system by eating a varied diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods will help your body stay healthy and strong all through flu season.
While some people feel a little tired for a day or two after getting their shot, most people don’t need to stop going to work or school or caring for loved ones. That said, it’s probably a good idea to avoid getting your shot the day before running a marathon or taking your SATs—just in case you feel extra tired for a few days.
But you can exercise after getting your flu shot—and some research shows that exercise can make the shot more effective. One study showed that people who exercised after getting their vaccine had a better immune response than those who didn’t. But if you’re too tired to exercise after getting your shot, taking it easy until you feel back to normal is okay.
While you can continue your routine after getting a flu shot, you might want to plan for an early bedtime or to Netflix and chill the day after. Best case scenario? You feel fine and get to enjoy some extra time with your remote.
Not feeling so hot after the vaccine? Here’s how to take care of yourself:
The flu vaccine provides excellent protection against the virus, reducing the risk of illness by 40-60%! Of those who get infected, vaccinated people usually experience milder symptoms and get better faster than unvaccinated people.
Remember that it takes two weeks for the vaccine to reach maximum effectiveness. That’s because it takes time for the vaccine to teach your body how to respond to potential invaders. If you are exposed to the virus just before you get your shot—or in the two weeks after—you could still get sick. This doesn’t mean that the vaccine didn’t work. It’s just bad timing.
If you do catch the flu, take care of yourself. Rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay away from others to avoid spreading the virus. Prescription antiviral medications like Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) can help you get better faster if taken within two days of your first symptoms. So if you need same-day treatment, Dr. B has you covered.
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Hallam, J., et al (2022). Exercise after influenza or Covid-19 vaccination increases serum antibody without an increase in side effects. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Journal.
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Kalarikkal, S.M., et al. (2023). Influenza vaccine. StatPearls Publishing.
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University of Rochester Medical Center. (2020). Getting a flu shot? Skip the Advil, Aleve for mild discomfort.