- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Whether you made an appointment with your doctor or are just going to hit up your local pharmacy, it can feel so good to plan to get your annual flu shot. You're being proactive about your health—go you! What doesn’t feel so hot? Feeling sick at the same time you planned to get your vaccine.
Now you probably have some questions about next steps. Namely, can you get a flu shot when you’re sick?
TBH, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) isn’t a huge help here. This is what the organization currently says online about getting a flu shot when you’re sick: “If you are not feeling well, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.”
The answer is a little more complicated than a blanket yes or no (because of course). But not all illnesses are the same, and doctors say you’re likely just fine to get the flu shot under some circumstances, but not others. Then there’s the global pandemic to consider, and the fact that maybe you shouldn’t be out in public if you have certain symptoms.
Confused yet? The good news is that you’ll be able to get your flu shot at some point. You just may need to do a little due diligence first before you stick with your original plan. Read this before rescheduling your flu shot.
First, here’s who should get a flu shot.
In general, the CDC recommends that people over the age of six months get an annual flu shot. Worth noting: That includes pregnant people, people with certain chronic health conditions, and those with egg allergies.
However, the CDC says that certain people shouldn’t get an annual flu shot, including children under age six months, people with severe, life-threatening allergies to any ingredients in a flu vaccine (like gelatin or certain antibiotics), and those who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past (although the CDC recommends checking in with your doctor if the last one describes you).
So, can you get a flu shot when you’re sick?
Pull up a seat—we’ve got a few things to cover here. While the CDC is kinda-totally vague about whether it’s okay to get a flu shot when you’re sick, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has general vaccine info that addresses whether it’s okay to receive any vaccine when you’re not feeling well.
The language is a little medical jargony, but it says that a lot boils down to how severe your symptoms are and what kind of illness you have. “The safety and efficacy of vaccinating persons who have mild illnesses have been documented,” the ACIP says, adding that, “vaccination should be deferred for persons with a moderate or severe acute illness.”
Here's how you can break that all down: “In general, if you have a little cold or the sniffles, it’s okay to proceed with a flu shot,” says Timothy Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “To a certain extent, it’s a judgment call, depending on how bad you’re feeling.”
Keep this in mind, too: The vaccine should work just fine for you, whether you’re feeling a little off or not. “There are no suggestions that the vaccine, if given, wouldn't ‘work,'” David Cennimo, MD, assistant professor of medicine-pediatrics infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Murphy agrees. “Having a mild illness has no impact on how well the vaccine works,” he says.
When *shouldn’t* you get a flu shot if you’re sick?
Got a fever? It’s a good idea to reschedule, says Isabel Valdez, PA-C, an instructor of internal medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. “Fevers are one of the body’s way of asking for help,” she says. “So, if you have a fever, its best to follow up with your medical provider and wait to get the flu shot until the fever resolves.”
There’s not really a hard line in the sand of how high a fever is problematic, but Dr. Murphy recommends putting off your flu shot for “anything over 101.”
Also, if you have a more intense intestinal bug, are vomiting, or “are just feeling really uncomfortable,” Dr. Murphy suggests waiting. “But, if it’s a little bit of an upset stomach that’s mild, I would go ahead and get the shot,” he says.
Given that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, Dr. Murphy notes that it’s a good idea to make sure that your “cold” is actually just that before you roll up to your doctor’s office or local pharmacy with symptoms that could be confused with COVID-19. “Get tested before going and getting your flu shot,” he advises. (Note: There are plenty of at-home tests you can use to make the process easier on yourself.) Also, if you have a hacking cough from your cold, you may want to put off your shot until your symptoms ease up, just to make yourself and the people around you feel more comfortable—even if you know it's "just" a cold.
If you get your flu vaccine when you’re sick, will you feel worse?
Not necessarily. If you have a stuffy nose or another mild issue, Dr. Murphy says you’ll probably feel just fine. But if you’re not feeling so hot and you get your flu vaccine, you could feel a little yuckier than usual afterward.
“In general, some people feel a bit unwell after vaccines as part of the immune response—they may feel tired, achy, etc. for a day,” Dr. Cennimo says. “If they go into this sick already, they may feel worse.” If you have a fever when you get your flu shot—which, again, isn’t recommended—you could confuse that with side effects from the vaccine, he points out.
When can you get your flu shot?
If you put off your flu vaccine because you weren’t at your healthiest, experts say you can pretty much reschedule as soon as you feel better. “A reasonable guideline is when you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours,” Dr. Murphy says. “But it really comes down to judgment. When you’re feeling good, just go for it.”
You Might Also Like