What to Do Before and After Your Flu Shot

Jul 31, 2023


Following these simple tips can make this important vaccination easier

Getting a flu shot every fall is important for your health and the health of the people you love. When you’ve received the shot, you’re less likely to get the flu and spread it to people at high risk of complications, such as adults older than 65 and infants.

Even if you do get the flu, you probably won’t get as sick as you would have without the shot, which means less time feeling miserable.

What you do before and after getting the shot can set you up for success. Here’s what you should know:

Before Your Flu Shot

  1. When should I get a flu shot?

    Flu circulates year-round, but cases typically start to ramp up in October and peak between December and February, dipping to lower levels by summer. Public health officials recommend getting a flu shot each year by the end of October for the most protection, although you can still get one later in the season.
  2. Should I drink water before my vaccination?

    It’s always a good idea to drink adequate water, especially when you receive a vaccine. Being hydrated makes you feel better overall and will help treat a mild fever if you develop one after the shot.
  3. Should I eat before my flu shot?

    Like ample hydration, good nutrition will help you feel your best. If you’re prone to dizziness or fainting when you receive vaccinations, eating a snack before the injection can help.
  4. Can I get a flu vaccine if I’m feeling sick?

    If you feel a bit under the weather but your symptoms are mild, you can get your flu shot. But if you have moderate to severe illness, you should wait until you recover. You want your immune system to focus on building a response to the vaccination, not fighting a bug you already have.
  5. Needles make me nervous. What should I do?

    Don’t be embarrassed — a lot of people are afraid of needles. Try deep breathing exercises or distraction, such as reading or talking to a friend during the shot. Remind yourself the shot will be over in a second, and the benefits will last for months.
  6. What happens if I feel faint or dizzy? 

    Tell the person administering your shot that you feel unsteady and sit down. Don’t walk or drive until you feel normal again.
  7. Can I get the flu shot and a COVID-19 shot or booster at the same time?

    Yes. There’s no reason to space them out if you’re due for both vaccines, and it saves you a trip to the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

Have any additional questions? Make sure to talk to your doctor. You’ll want to do this if you have an allergy to a vaccine so they can help you decide if a flu shot is right for you.

After Your Flu Shot

  1. Why does my arm hurt after a flu shot?

    It’s normal to experience mild soreness, swelling or redness at the injection site. It’s caused by inflammation and is a good sign your immune system is at work. Move your arm frequently to keep blood flowing, and it will feel better in a day or two.
  2. What should I do after a flu shot?

    You can do your normal activities after a flu shot. If you feel tired or achy, rest and drink water. If side effects linger or worsen, call your doctor.
  3. What should I avoid after a flu shot?

    There is some debate among doctors over whether to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Some worry the fever-reducing medication could impair the immune activity the shot has activated. Talk to your doctor about what to do if you’re bothered by a sore arm or slight fever after a shot.

Preparing Children to Get Shots

Kids usually don’t like shots very much. But it’s important they get vaccines, including the flu shot, to stay healthy and to attend school or child care.

Be honest with children that they’re going to get a shot, but there’s no need to tell them days in advance. Let them know a few hours before the appointment — don’t wait until you’re already on the way to the clinic, or panic might ensue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents stay compassionate and positive: Getting a shot isn’t fun, but it’s important medicine that we need to stay healthy. Let your child know you understand why they’re afraid but that they can cope, and you will help them. Distraction can work — sing a silly song for your toddler, or let your older child watch a funny video.

And while it’s hard to see your child scared or uncomfortable, stay calm and confident, at least on the outside. Remember you’re taking care of them by getting their vaccines.