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Image / Self / Health & Wellness

Ask the Doctor: ‘If I get the flu vaccine, will it make me sick afterwards?’


By Sarah Gill
14th Nov 2023
Ask the Doctor: ‘If I get the flu vaccine, will it make me sick afterwards?’

All your burning health questions answered by the professionals.

“I keep seeing adverts promoting the flu shot and how we should all get this. I am healthy, though I do have asthma, which is under control. I have elderly parents who I look after, my father has COPD so he will absolutely be getting the shot. I have heard that getting the shot will give me the flu. With a busy job, children and elderly parents to look after, I don’t have time to be sick with flu after getting the shot. Is this true? Will the vaccine give me the flu?”

flu vaccine

Answer from Seamus Dunne, Pharmacist & Head of Clinical Pharmacy Strategic Projects, Beacon Hospital.

Getting the flu vaccine is one of the best preventative things you can do to help to protect people who are most vulnerable to severe flu illness, such as older adults and people with chronic health conditions. Influenza (flu) is a very infectious illness caused by the flu virus. The virus infects the airways and the lungs. More people getting the jab means fewer people will need flu treatment at a time when hospitals are under pressure.

Some people are more at risk of serious complications from the flu including people aged 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with an underlying health condition such as diabetes and chronic lung diseases. In your situation, where your asthma is under control, it is still important to get the vaccine as getting the flu can also make stable conditions such as asthma worse.

It is a common misconception that getting the flu vaccine can give you the flu however this is not the case. The flu vaccine contains an inactivated virus that cannot give you flu. You may feel achy or slightly feverish afterwards, this is a normal reaction of the immune system to the vaccine, and generally lasts only a day or two. Other mild side effects include redness or swelling where you got the injection, mild sweating and shivering headaches. These side effects can be managed by resting and taking paracetamol.

The best time to get the flu vaccine is before the flu season starts. The flu season usually starts at the beginning of October and lasts until the end of April. It can take 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to work. It should protect you for the whole flu season. The flu vaccine is safe and effective however no vaccine offers 100 percent protection. The flu vaccine protects against the 4 strains of flu virus most likely to be circulating this season. People who have had the vaccine are less likely to get flu, if you do get flu after being vaccinated it is likely to be a milder, shorter illness than if you haven’t been vaccinated.

You can get the flu vaccine from your community pharmacy or your GP surgery. For adults, the flu vaccine is given as an injection into your arm. Children get the flu vaccine as a spray into their nose (nasal spray).

More information on the flu and other vaccines is available here and here.

Boots are now offering Winter Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, book online at Boots.ie/vaccinations.

Have a question for the professionals you’d like answered? Get in touch with sarah.gill@image.ie with the subject headline ‘Ask The Doctor’.