Up to 64% of adults and children who receive the flu shot experience pain and/or soreness at the site of the injection, making it the most common side effect of the vaccine. Many patients unpleasantly describe it as feeling like they were "getting punched in the arm," and we understand that it can be a real discomfort for the one or two days it takes for the soreness to go away. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce or avoid this experience when you attend an on-site flu clinic this year!
We spoke to our Assistant Director of Nursing, Andrea Oster, for her tips and tricks for avoiding arm soreness post-shot:
1.) Relax your arm when getting the shot. "It can be hard to do when you're nervous, but do not tense up," Andrea says. While you're sitting, lay your hand flat on your upper leg and relax your shoulder, letting your arm hang until the nurse administers the shot.
2.) Take ibuprofen or Tylenol. A lot of the pain comes from inflammation. Taking a painkiller will do wonders in reducing swelling and assisting with the discomfort.
3.) Use your arm afterwards. "Don't 'baby' it! Work out, write, type and continue your regular routines," Andrea says. By keeping your arm in motion, you can help the circulation in the injection area return to normal more quickly. If you didn't use your dominant arm, consider raising it up or moving it in circles to speed along the healing process.
4.) Try cold and warm compresses. Ice the area after the flu shot to reduce any swelling. After one or two days, try a warm compress to help relax the muscle and get the blood flow moving.
5.) Consider an alternative vaccine. There are options! We also offer a nasal spray vaccine, which is available for healthy, non-pregnant individuals between the ages of 2 and 49. It's great for people who are afraid of needles or children that can't sit still for a shot.
Why is my arm sore after the flu shot? Soreness in your arm after getting a flu vaccine typically lasts no longer than one or two days. The pain and inflammation is your body's natural response to a foreign invader. It's a sign that your immune system is making antibodies, which is what offers you the protection from getting the actual virus. If you experience pain that lasts longer than three days, you should call your doctor.
Do you typically experience arm soreness or other side effects after your flu shot? Tell us in the comments!