Over a decade administering Flu Shots
Your Essential Guide to Flu Vaccine Reactions and Side Effects
As flu season approaches, weighing the potential risks of contracting influenza against the vaccine's side effects is essential. While there may be mild post-vaccination symptoms, the benefits of getting the flu shot significantly outweigh any temporary discomfort.
To lend a credible voice to this important topic, we've consulted with RN Aitor Aspiazu, a healthcare professional with over 20 years of experience in Emergency Nursing, Immunisation, and Corporate Health. Aitor is not only an expert in handling anaphylaxis cases, having worked in various Emergency Departments in the UK and Australia, but he's also the Nurse Consultant and Founder of Corporate Care. His dual roles make him exceptionally qualified to speak about flu vaccinations.
Aitor emphasises, 'In both emergency and corporate environments, flu vaccinations play a critical role in maintaining public health. The minor side effects, such as arm soreness or a mild fever, are generally far less severe than the risks of contracting influenza. In my years in healthcare, I've witnessed firsthand the severe ramifications that flu can have, especially in vulnerable populations. I can't stress enough the importance of flu vaccinations in the workplace to safeguard employee health.
Flu Vaccination Side Effects: From Arm Soreness to Allergic Reactions
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The side effects of a flu shot (if any) tend to be mild, and if you develop flu-like symptoms, its effects are expected to be weaker than getting the "live" version of the virus. Some reactions to the flu vaccine may include:
- General malaise, or feeling "under the weather."
- Muscle aches
- Localised swelling, sore arm, itchiness or redness
- Feeling tired
Adverse reactions to the flu shot should clear up within two to three days.
Severe influenza vaccine side effects such as anaphylaxis are a rare occurrence. The risk of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to inactivated influenza vaccine is similar to other vaccines and estimated at 1.35 per million doses.
The nurses at Corporate Care will walk you through a consultation process before administering the shot to ensure the utmost safety.
Although it is rare, allergic reactions to flu vaccination may happen
Like any other medication, someone may have a severe allergic reaction to a component in the vaccine. We recommend seeking immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following signs following the administration of the influenza vaccination.
- Stomach pain, vomiting or nausea
- Losing consciousness or blacking out
- Swelling around the throat, tongue, lips or eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
- Hoarse voice
You must stay near the person who administered the flu shot for at least 15 minutes in case you develop any flu shot symptoms. This is what we call "observation time."
All our immunisation nurses carry an emergency kit and are well prepared to administer adrenaline should a severe reaction (anaphylactic reaction) to the flu vaccine occur.
How to Better Manage Flu Injection Side Effects
It's common to develop a sore arm after getting the flu shot. We often recommend our customers move their arms in a circular motion regularly so the vaccine isn't quite concentrated in one place.
Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol may help reduce the pain from a flu shot sore arm. If the pain persists for over two days, you should speak with your local GP or pharmacist to ensure you are not experiencing an Adverse Event Following Influenza Administration (AEFI).
Also, some may experience mild fever after a flu jab, which is considered a physical response. Some recommendations to recover from this fever include drinking enough fluids, rest, and keeping yourself cool. If the fever persists for more than two days, it's time to schedule an appointment with your GP. If you are concerned, you can always contact Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
In emergencies, you must immediately call Triple 000 and follow their advice.
Is Getting Sick After Flu Shots Normal?
Generally, flu vaccinations are safe and do not lead to serious side effects. In rare cases, it may cause an allergic reaction. While these reactions can be life-threatening, the Immunisation Nursing team at Corporate Care has emergency protocols to deal with such situations.
Millions of Australians get flu jabs yearly and do not experience any complications.
Flu shots do not give you the flu. Therefore, an individual getting the flu from a jab is not possible. The virus in a vaccine is inactivated, meaning it does not contain the 'live' virus, rendering the flu vaccine safe. However, there can still be mild after flu shot symptoms, which should go away after a few days.
Once you receive the flu shot, it takes around two weeks to generate enough antibodies to fight off the flu strains found in the vaccine administered (Type A and Type B strains).
This immune response may cause mild flu-like symptoms that can often be alleviated with over-the-counter Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. As Aitor Aspiazu says, 'It's not uncommon to experience mild symptoms post-vaccination. These are generally minor compared to the severe complications that can arise from influenza. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can often manage these effectively, but it's always best to consult healthcare professionals for personalised advice.'
(Always consult your doctor or pharmacist for medical advice before taking any medication. Check the label for the correct dose—especially when giving medications to children. Please ensure you also read the Product and Consumer Medicine Information).
There's no reason to avoid getting the flu shot because you think it'll make you sick. We strongly recommend speaking with a healthcare professional to answer your concerns or questions about the flu.
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What if I have the flu shot when I am sick?
Flu shots will not cure existing flu in ill individuals. By nature, vaccines are preventive and work by shielding you from future infections. Individuals who have already been infected can still get sick from it.
Although you can get the shot if you have a mild illness, we recommend that people who have a fever or a moderate or severe illness should delay getting their flu jab. Your immune system may not be able to generate enough antibodies to fend off against a future viral invasion.
If you don't feel well or know whether you can have your flu jab, we recommend speaking with your doctor, nurse immuniser or local pharmacist.
For minor illnesses such as colds and similar conditions. The healthcare professional going through the flu consent before administering the vaccine would advise further and provide a recommendation.
What to do if you Experience a Reaction to the Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccines are safe and effective but can cause side effects like any medication. The most common side effects are mild and include soreness, redness, swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches. These side effects usually go away within a few days.
However, in rare cases, an individual may experience a more serious reaction, such as an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, that can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
If you experience any of the following symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine, seek medical attention immediately:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
It is important to note that anaphylaxis reactions are rare and occur in less than 1 in a million doses. This is why we request people getting the flu shot to stay close to the nurse for 15 minutes post-vaccination to ensure no serious side effects, as this generally occurs within this timeframe.
Corporate Care nurses are experienced immunisers in the workplace who know what to do in these situations. They all carry emergency kits with adrenaline and follow Corporate Care protocols to ensure the safety of their clients. Aitor Aspiazu remarks, 'Our nurses are trained to handle emergencies that may arise during vaccinations. The presence of emergency kits and strict adherence to protocols provide an extra layer of safety for everyone involved.'
It's important to remember that the benefits of receiving the flu vaccine far outweigh the potential risks of experiencing a side effect. Aitor adds, 'Getting vaccinated not only protects you but also helps prevent the spread of influenza to more vulnerable populations. It's a collective responsibility that has far-reaching benefits for public health.' The flu vaccine protects the individual who receives it and helps to prevent the spread of influenza to others, particularly those at higher risk of serious complications, such as young children, older adults, and individuals with certain underlying medical conditions.
Immediate Anaphylaxis Management in the Workplace: Handling Allergic Reactions to Flu Vaccines
Corporate Care's nursing staff are trained to identify and manage emergencies, such as anaphylaxis, which can be a rare side effect of the flu vaccine.
Adrenaline (epinephrine) is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.
If an employee has an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine, the following immediate actions should be taken:
- Lay the person flat and do not allow them to stand or walk. If the person is unconscious or pregnant, place them in recovery on their left side (particularly important for pregnant women).
- Administer adrenaline immediately by injecting intramuscular into the outer mid-thigh.
- Call for assistance. Corporate Care nurses always carry an emergency kit to handle emergencies like anaphylaxis.
- Phone ambulance - 000 (AU) or 111 (NZ) to transport the employee to a hospital.
- Contact a family member or next of kin.
- Further adrenaline may be given if there is no response after 5 minutes.
It is essential to act quickly when managing anaphylaxis. After administering adrenaline, the person should be transferred to a hospital for observation. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be commenced at any time if the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally.
Always administer adrenaline first, followed by an asthma reliever, if someone with known asthma experiences sudden breathing difficulties (including wheezing, persistent cough, or a hoarse voice) after receiving a flu vaccine, even if there are no skin symptoms..
Our nursing staff are equipped to handle emergencies, and we take every precaution to ensure our clients and nursing staff's safety and well-being.
Source: Adapted to the workplace environment from ASCIA https://www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers/acute-management-of-anaphylaxis-guidelines
From Our Flu Blog
By Aitor Aspiazu |
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Introducing Aitor Aspiazu, your go-to flu expert and a Registered Nurse accredited by AHPRA (NMW0001159845). Boasting over two decades of experience in healthcare, Aitor has navigated everything from Emergency Departments to Corporate Wellness Programs—and yes, he’s even battled the flu himself. As the Founder and Lead Nurse Consultant at Corporate Care, he’s the driving force behind workplace health and well-being. No longer in scrubs, he’s now at the forefront of healthcare innovation, leveraging Artificial Intelligence and automation to revolutionise workplace health and well-being. As the Founder and Lead Nurse Consultant at Corporate Care, he’s the visionary behind cutting-edge flu vaccination programs that keep businesses running smoothly. Off-duty, he’s a proud dad and a Padel addict who represented Australia in the World Padel Championship. Trust Aitor; he’s got your back when it comes to flu prevention and modern healthcare solutions.