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What are Common Flu Shot Reactions?


Updated June 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What are Common Flu Shot Reactions?
Millions of people get flu shots every year and have no reactions at all. However, there are flu shot reactions that do occur in some people. Here we will discuss the most common flu shot reactions and also those that are very rare but could be serious.

There are two different types of flu vaccines - the flu shot (intramuscular injection) and the nasal spray flu vaccine. Many of the reactions they may cause are similar, but there are some differences.

Common flu shot reactions include:

  • Pain at injection side
  • Redness and swelling at injection site
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or malaise (feeling tired)
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Hoarse voice
  • Cough
  • Fever

Common nasal spray flu vaccine reactions include:

  • Runny nose, congestion or cough
  • Fever
  • Headache or Muscle Aches
  • Wheezing (typically in children)
  • Abdominal pain or occasional vomiting or diarrhea (typically in children)
  • Sore Throat
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling tired)

Serious and life threatening flu shot reactions occur very rarely. Reactions you should be aware of and know the signs for include:

  • Anaphylaxis - this is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. A person can have an anaphylactic reaction to any component of the vaccine. If you know you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the flu vaccine (especially chicken eggs), you should not get the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine. Signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the tongue and lips, coughing and wheezing. Some people also experience dizziness, weakness, vomiting and rash.

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome - a swine flu vaccine that was administered in 1976 was linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. Since then, no link has been identified between seasonal flu vaccines and this disorder. It occurs in 1 to 2 people out of every million that get the flu shot.


"Live, Intranasal Influenza Vaccine 2010-2011." Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) 10 Aug 10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 18 Aug 10.

"Inactivated Influenza Vaccine 2010-2011." Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) 10 Aug 10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 18 Aug 10.

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