You may feel sore, tired, or just rundown after your flu shot, and you may wonder what you should avoid after your flu shot to make sure you don’t feel worse. Pain relievers can help with the flu shot side effects. There are few restrictions on what you can eat, drink, or do after getting a flu shot.
This article will explore some dos and don’ts after getting your flu shot.
After a Flu Shot: Medications to Avoid
Most medications will not interfere with your flu vaccine or cause problems after you get your shot. It’s crucial to take all medications as prescribed, regardless of upcoming or recent flu vaccines.
If you take medications, like steroids, that can suppress your immune system, talk to a healthcare provider about the timing of your doses. They may recommend you choose when your medication is not at its peak to get your flu shot so your body can mount a strong immune response.
Although some experts say over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce pain and soreness at the vaccine injection site, other researchers suggest that these medications may dilute or weaken the protective effects of the vaccine.
Talk to a healthcare provider if you are concerned about your response to the flu vaccine or any interactions with your regular medications.
After a Flu Shot: Food and Drink to Avoid
Similar to the lack of medication restrictions with the flu shot, there isn’t much to worry about regarding foods and drinks after getting your flu shot. If you are nauseated or not feeling well after your vaccine, you may choose to avoid certain foods and drinks, but there aren’t any items that experts strongly recommend avoiding after immunization.
Experts suggest you avoid drinking alcohol after getting a flu shot. Excess alcohol can impair of suppress immune cell activity.
Are You Contagious After a Flu Shot?
When you receive your flu shot, you are being given an inactive or synthetic version of the virus, meaning the flu shot does not infect you with the flu. Instead, it exposes your body to inactive viruses so it is able to detect the virus and kill it if you are exposed to the flu. You cannot pass the virus or an influenza infection on to others from the vaccine.
However, you can pass a flu infection that incubated during your immunization.
It takes about two weeks from the time of your flu shot for your immune system to develop adequate protection against flu viruses. If you were already infected at the time of your vaccination or become infected right afterward, there is still a chance you could get sick with the flu and pass it on to others around you.
After getting the flu shot, you can also be infected with other respiratory infections. The seasonal flu shot only protects against certain types of influenza viruses.
What to Avoid After a Flu Shot With Fatigue
The flu shot can make you sore and tired as your immune system works overtime to develop protection against the virus. Extra rest and self-care can help if you are sore or sick after the flu shot.
A 2022 study suggests that exercising after getting a flu or COVID-19 vaccine may improve your protection. The study found that people who exercised regularly mounted a more robust immune response after vaccination. After getting your shot, a single episode of light to moderate exercise can help boost your protection.
If your arm is sore to the point that you can’t lift it or you feel faint or dizzy after vaccination, exercise is not recommended. Get rest, and call your healthcare provider if you suspect you have a severe or allergic reaction to your flu shot.
Better Things to Do Instead After a Flu Shot
Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers may help if you aren’t feeling well after you have your flu shot. Be cautious about using more than one pain medicine at a time, however, and talk to a healthcare provider if you suspect you are having a severe or allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
Call a provider or seek immediate care if you experience any of the following signs of a severe allergic reaction:
- Shortness of breath
- High fever
- Swelling around the eyes, mouth, or other areas of your face
- Feeling faint or dizzy
Exercise, rest, and eating foods that promote a robust immune response will help you feel your best after vaccination. Foods that can help boost your immune health include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Lean proteins
- Whole grains
- Vitamin-rich foods, especially those with vitamins C and D
It’s also a good idea to avoid factors that can reduce your immune response while your body works to create antibodies after flu vaccination. This includes:
- Drinking alcohol
- Being stressed
- Skimping on your sleep
The flu shot offers protection against several strains of influenza, and each seasonal vaccine is developed to target the most common strains in a given year. The flu shot doesn’t include a live virus, so you can’t get the flu from your shot. Still, you might not feel well as your immune system works overtime to develop antibodies against the virus.
Rest, a healthy and balanced diet, and light to moderate exercise can all help boost your immune response after getting the flu shot. Mild soreness and fatigue is expected, but a little self-care and over-the-counter pain relievers should improve your symptoms.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who should and who should not get a flu vaccine.
Permanente Medicine. Five ways to reduce flu shot soreness.
University of Rochester Medical Center. Getting a flu shot? Skip the Advil, Aleve for mild discomfort.
Jackson ML, Bellamy A, Wolff M, Hill H, Jackson LA. Low-dose aspirin use does not diminish the immune response to monovalent H1N1 influenza vaccine in older adults. Epidemiol Infect. 2016;144(4):768-771. doi:10.1017/S0950268815002058
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Nutrition and immunity.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu vaccine safety information.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal flu vaccines.
Hallam J, Jones T, Alley J, Kohut ML. Exercise after influenza or COVID-19 vaccination increases serum antibody without an increase in side effects. Brain Behav Immun. 2022;102:1-10. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2022.02.005
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