Influenza, or the flu, is pretty common in the United States and around the world. It has been estimated that anywhere between 5% and 20% of people around the country will contract the flu every year. In an effort to avoid this, many of us get flu shots. There are some things you can do to make this experience better for you:
- Go to someone who knows what they are doing. Today, there are a of places where you can have this done. You can go to your doctors’ offices or you can go to walk in clinics. Because there are so many places offering this kind of service, you may end up going to someone who does not have a lot of experience doing this. To minimize your discomfort, you can go to your primary care physician’s office or if you cannot do that, make sure the person doing it does it quickly. Watch how the people do the flu shots for the people ahead of you.
- Get enough water. It is always easier to get flu shots if you are properly hydrated. Before you go in for your shot, drink some extra water. A well hydrated muscle is better able to handle the trauma of the shot than one that is dry. While you may not think about this as a major trauma to the muscle, shots are a little bit traumatic for your muscles. More water can help your body recover and will make it all a lot easier for you.
- Pick an arm in advance. You know better than anyone which arm is better for shots (for you). Some people prefer to have shots in their non-dominant arm, while others like to do the opposite because the vaccine will be moved into your system faster when the shot is put in an arm you use more. This is a matter of personal preference but it is a good idea to pick one before you go for the shot itself.
- Keep an eye on the area before you get the shot. You want the person administering the flu shots to clean the area with an alcohol swap (or other cleaner) but you also want that area to have a chance to really dry before the shot is administered. There is a chance the alcohol from the swab can get into the puncture that is made from the shot. That is not fun. If you wait a few seconds, you can avoid this pain all together. Keep an eye on the area after, too.
- Try to relax. If you are like most people, getting any shots — flu shots or no, is not fun. It is a normal response to tense up before the needle goes in. As hard as it may be to relax before you get the shot, it will be a lot less painful if you are able to relax a little bit before the shot is administered. If you have trouble with this, try to relax the muscles in your shoulder. If you place your hand on your hip, you can help get your muscle into the right relaxed mode for the shot itself.
- Consider taking some acetaminophen. If you are really sore, of if that has been your experience in the past, you may want to try some acetaminophen (Tylenol) to combat that. Because aspirin, naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil) can also thin your blood and cause bleeding at the injection site, acetaminophen is a better bet for minor aches and pains that come from things like a flu shot. Acetaminophen is a very effective and safe over the counter medication that you can take before a flu shot.
The flu is one of the more common ailments that people have to deal with every year. The good news is that it is often self-limiting problem that may not require any medical intervention. The bad news is that while we can dismiss this illness, it can also be very dangerous. By going to your doctor or a walk-in clinic and getting flu shots every year, you can help protect your family from this common, yet unpleasant, health problem.