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Every year people get flu shots at the start of flu season. And this year with the novel coronavirus making the rounds, even more people are probably going out to get their flu vaccine in an effort to stave off the common flu. For anyone who has gotten the shot, they know that after receiving the jab their arms are a little sore for a day or two following. But as immunologists have pointed out, this soreness is a sign that the vaccine is doing what it’s supposed to do.

The flu vaccine introduces an antigen, which is a deactivated, or “dead”, virus similar to the flu, to your body. This inactive virus won’t make you sick but it will help your body become exposed to a foreign body and have a chance to create antibodies to fight it should they ever become exposed to it again. Basically, the inactive virus acts like a fire drill for your body – it helps your immune system practice and get ready for the real thing.

Photo: Pixabay / hunthl

With the deactivated virus in your system, your immune system will be on high alert, scanning your system for anything that might resemble the flu virus. After the introduction of the virus by the vaccine, your immune system responds by releasing mediators such as histamine which will cause inflammation. In the case of infection, the inflammation helps to fight the infection and repair tissue damage. But this process also causes soreness at the injection site.

If you don’t want to suffer through the pain of a flu shot, Dr. Juanita Mora of the American Lung Association suggests taking an ibuprofen roughly two hours before you get the shot, according to Popular Science. Or alternately, Dr. Mora stated that icing the injection sight right after the shot helps reduce the redness or swelling, according to the American Lung Association. Other helpful tips are to move your arm around right after the shot so that the vaccine doesn’t stay fixed in one spot. Or you could get the shot in your non-dominant arm so that the pain doesn’t distract from any activities that you do.

Despite the pain, the shot is well worth it as the flu shot helps to boost herd immunity. Additionally, it also assists in helping high-risk groups such as children, the elderly, or the chronically ill to stay healthy as many of them are unable to receive the vaccine themselves. Staying up to date on our flu shots can be beneficial to everyone in the community – and community health is something that is so important these days.