Straight Talk features your common questions about health and wellness answered by the experts at St. Vincent's.
Q: Should I hold off on getting my flu shot if I'm sick?
Dr. Iannarone: Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different and influenza infection can affect people differently. The flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. During this time flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. Population. The flu vaccine cannot cause influenza. Flu vaccines are made with an inactivated or attenuated virus which cannot cause infection.
While it is tempting to cancel and reschedule a doctor's appointment for vaccine when you or your child has the sniffles, an upset stomach, or low-grade fever, the Centers for Disease control, American Academy of Family Physicians, as well the American academy of Pediatrics and ACIP, all say that mild illness is not a reason to put off vaccination.
Adults and children may still be vaccinated if they have a low-grade fever less than 101°, a cold, runny nose or cough, if they have an ear infection, or if they have mild diarrhea. There is no health benefit waiting to vaccinate if you have a mild illness.
Vaccines do not make symptoms of illness worse, they may cause mild side effects like a mild fever or soreness or swelling of the shot was given. A mild illness does not affect how well the body response to a vaccine. Vaccines build up protection and someone who was mildly ill as well as they do when they are healthy. Antibiotics will not affect how you respond to vaccines.
Adults and children with moderate or serious illness with or without fever may need to wait until they are better to get vaccinated. Some other circumstances which may preclude vaccination would include chronic health conditions like certain types of cancers, a weakened immune system (such as someone receiving chemotherapy or is on certain medications after a transplant), were if someone is had a severe allergic reaction with previous vaccination.
John Iannarone, MD
Urgent Care Medicine
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