The flu, or influenza, is a disease that attacks the respiratory system and can be very serious and potentially deadly. The flu is highly contagious. Most cases of the flu will go away on their own without medication or complications. Many people are now opting for the flu vaccine to prevent serious illness or complications. The flu vaccine is generally safe, but some people may experience a negative reaction after the injection. You can treat a negative reaction to the flu vaccine by seeking medical attention for an allergic reaction or reducing less serious side effects at home.
Part 1 of 2: Seeking Medical Treatment for Severe Reaction
Step 1. Get immediate medical attention to treat a severe allergic reaction
In rare cases, the flu vaccine can cause a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction. It usually develops within minutes to hours of receiving the vaccine. If you have any of the following symptoms and your condition is severe, call emergency services immediately or go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible:
- Difficult to breathe
- Hoarseness or wheezing.
- Swelling around the eyes, lips, or throat
- Red itching
- Fast heartbeat or dizziness
Step 2. Call your doctor for possible allergic reactions
Even if you don't experience symptoms of a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to the flu vaccine, you can still experience serious side effects. It also requires medical attention. Call your doctor and ask what to do if you experience any of these serious side effects:
- Fever over 38 degrees Celsius
- Redness or swelling at the injection point
- Difficulty breathing or fast heart rate
- Dizziness for more than a day or two
- Blood keeps coming out of the injection point
Step 3. Look for medication to reduce the reaction
Medical treatment depends on the type of negative or serious reaction you have. Your doctor can give you medication or require you to stay in the hospital for monitoring. You may get one of the following treatments for serious reactions:
- Epinephrine injection for anaphylaxis
- Oral or injectable antihistamines for redness and/or itching
- Hospitalization for cardiovascular reactions or loss of consciousness
Step 4. Monitor your symptoms closely
In most cases, the negative reaction to the flu vaccine will go away without treatment. However, it is important to pay attention to the symptoms you experience after the injection or after receiving treatment for a negative reaction. If your symptoms do not go away or get worse, call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention. This can minimize the risk of negative reactions and serious complications.
Call your doctor if you are not sure about these side effects or how you feel. Better be careful before it's too late
Part 2 of 2: Relieve Minor Side Effects at Home
Step 1. Recognize common negative reactions
Serious reactions to the flu vaccine are not common. However, you may still have a negative reaction to the injectable vaccine or nasal spray (spray flu vaccine is not recommended). By recognizing the common side effects of the flu vaccine, you can find out how best to treat it. Negative reactions include:
- Pain, swelling, or redness at the injection point
- Mild fever (below 38 degrees Celsius)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle ache
- Cough or sore throat
- Runny nose
Step 2. Take ibuprofen to treat pain or swelling
Most flu vaccine side effects go away within two days. The most common negative reactions occur at the injection point. This usually includes mild redness, pain, or swelling. Take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling.
- Take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. This can relieve pain and reduce swelling or inflammation.
- Follow the dosage instructions listed on the product packaging or as instructed by your doctor.
Step 3. Use a cold compress
You may feel itching, pain, or discomfort at the injection point. You may experience dizziness or weakness. Applying a cold compress to the injection site or face can ease a negative reaction to the flu vaccine.
- Place a cold washcloth or ice pack at the injection site if it is swollen, uncomfortable, or red. Use as often as needed for 20 minutes until symptoms disappear.
- Apply a cool, damp washcloth to your face or neck if you feel dizzy, have a headache, or are sweating.
- Remove the compress if your skin is too cold or numb.
Step 4. Compress light bleeding with a bandage
The injection point may bleed a little after vaccination. In some cases it may continue to bleed for several days after the injection. If that happens, apply the patch until the bleeding stops.
Call your doctor if the blood doesn't stop within a day or two, or if it gets worse
Step 5. Sit down and eat something light to deal with dizziness
Some people may feel dizzy or even faint after the flu vaccine. In general, these negative reactions will not last more than a day or two. The best way to treat dizziness and prevent fainting is to rest. Eating a snack while resting can raise your blood sugar level and make you feel better.
- Sit or lie on the floor for a few minutes if you feel dizzy. Loosening your clothes or sitting with your head between your knees can reduce dizziness.
- Eat light meals to increase blood sugar levels and help minimize dizziness. Choose healthy snacks like cheese, toast with peanut butter, or apples.
Step 6. Relieve fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Many people develop a low-grade fever (below 38 degrees Celsius) after the flu vaccine. This is a common reaction and usually goes away in one to two days. If the fever bothers you, taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce the fever as well as any discomfort you may feel due to muscle aches.
- Follow the directions on the package or your doctor's instructions for reducing fever with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Call your doctor right away if your fever doesn't go down after two days or it rises above 38 degrees Celsius.
Step 7. Use an anti-itch medication
Itching at the injection point is also a common negative reaction after the flu vaccine. In most cases, this itching will also go away within a day or two. However, you may feel uncomfortable. Use an anti-itch or antipruritic medication to reduce the itching sensation at the injection site.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream every four to six hours to reduce itching. If the itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe oral prednisone or methylprednisolone.
- Take an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or hydroxyzine (Atarax) every four to six hours to control itching at the injection site.
People who are allergic to eggs used to have to wait 30 minutes to monitor their condition after being injected with the flu vaccine, but now there's no need to. If your egg allergy is mild, you can go home as soon as you receive the flu vaccine. People with severe allergies may still receive the vaccine, but may need to be monitored to control severe allergic reactions
- Do not give the flu vaccine to children under 6 months of age.
- Do not avoid the flu vaccine if you have had a mild reaction. Remember that you can still get the flu vaccine if you ever get sick because the formula changes every year.
- Call your doctor if you are unsure about the reaction. Caution is always better than regret later.