Can You Get a Flu Shot With a Cold?

Flu shot with a Cold
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Knowing when it's safe to get a flu vaccine and when it's not can be confusing. You may hear different advice from different people - even people in the health care field.

Have you ever planned to get a flu shot and then woke up with a cold? Or maybe you are at your doctor's office and they offer you a flu vaccine but you aren't sure if you are really healthy enough to get it. Will it still work? Could it make you even more sick?

If you are concerned about getting the vaccine when you have cold symptoms, we can help put your mind at ease.

What You Need to Know

Flu shots are recommended for nearly everyone over the age of 6 months old, but there are certain people and certain times when you shouldn't get one. Having a cold isn't necessarily a reason to avoid getting your flu shot, but the symptoms you have may mean you need to put it off for a few days.

For the most part, common cold symptoms do not prevent you from getting a flu vaccine. A cough, congestion, headache and sore throat are fine and won't affect your body's response to the vaccine. 

The exception would be if you are running a significant fever (over about 101 F). Since fevers are pretty uncommon with colds, it's unlikely this will be an issue. They are more common in children who have colds though, so if you are trying to get your child vaccinated, you should monitor her temperature if you think she is getting sick.

If your child has a fever, the pediatrician may decide that it is better to wait until the fever has resolved before giving any vaccinations (influenza or others). 

Other reasons people should not get the flu vaccine include:

  • Severe egg allergy - if you have an egg allergy, talk to your health care provider about the possibility of getting the flu vaccine. There are options available that may be safe for you. 
  • History of severe reaction to previous flu shots (arm soreness, minor rash or mild flu symptoms are common side effects of the vaccine and are not considered severe reactions)
  • History of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after a flu shot
  • Under 6 months of age - the vaccine is not approved for use in children this young but evidence shows that getting a flu shot while you are pregnant can help protect your baby for up to 6 months after she is born. So if you are pregnant - get your flu vaccine!

The bottom line is, you can get a flu shot with a cold as long as you don't have a fever too. If you do have a fever, wait until it has been gone for 24 hours without taking any fever reducing medications before you try to get your flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine takes 2 weeks to become effective after you get it, so make plans to get it early in the season. The sooner you are vaccinated, the better protected you will be. The flu can start circulating as early as October, so don't take chances with your health. 

Sources:

"Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine." Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 28 Mar 12. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 22 Aug 12.

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