Flu jab side effects 2021: common symptoms after flu vaccine explained, how long they last - and NHS advice

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It is normal to experience some side effects after receiving a flu jab, but symptoms will normally be mild and last for just a few days

The UK’s biggest flu vaccination programme in the NHS’s history is under way, with more than 40 million people eligible for a free jab this winter.

The mass rollout comes as part of efforts to keep infection levels down over the colder months, amid fears flu will be circulating at the same time as Covid-19.

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It is normal to experience some mild side effects after receiving a flu jab, but if you are concerned about symptoms, here’s what to expect after your vaccine.

What are the side effects of the flu jab?

There are several different types of flu vaccine, including low-egg and egg-free ones.

If you are eligible you will be offered the jab that is most effective for you, based on your age.

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For adults aged 65 and over, the most common jab contains an extra ingredient to help boost your immune system to create a stronger response.

None of the flu vaccines contain live viruses, so they cannot give you flu.

However, it is common to experience some side effects after your jab. These symptoms will mostly be mild and should only last for a day or two.

The most commonly reported side effects include:

  • a slightly raised temperature
  • muscle aches
  • a sore arm where the needle went in. This is more likely to affect people aged 65 and over.

Side effects can be eased by taking a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, afterwards, and by regularly moving your arm to reduce aches and pains.

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Some people, including pregnant women, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it.

How effective is the flu jab?

The flu vaccine helps to protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there is still a chance that you could still be infected.

However, if you do fall ill with flu after vaccination, it is likely to be milder and not last as long.

The vaccine will also help to stop you spreading the virus to other people who may be more at risk of serious illness from flu.

It can take between 10 to 14 days for the jab to work.

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Why is it important to get vaccinated?

Health experts are urging people to get vaccinated against flu as it is expected that infections will be higher this winter as less people will have built up natural immunity to it due during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you contract flu and Covid-19 at the same time, research shows that you are more likely to become seriously ill, increasing your risk of hospitalisation and even death.

With both viruses circulating at the same time, health experts have stressed that the best way to protect against serious illness is to get vaccinated.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual.

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“We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.

“Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible.

“For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating. We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called.

“Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal. It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.”

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Who should not have the flu vaccine?

While most adults are safe to have the vaccine, you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu jab in the past.

Those who have an egg allergy may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, as some flu jabs are made using eggs.

If you do have an egg allergy, you should ask your GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.

You should also wait to get your vaccine if you are ill with a high temperature. It is best to book your appointment when you are feeling better.

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