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Can You Get Shingles from the Flu Shot?

By HERWriter
 
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Can a Flu Shot Cause Shingles? Auremar/PhotoSpin

Can you get shingles from the flu shot?The short answer is no.

The longer answer is below, and will help you filter through the information and misinformation you might have heard about a possible connection between shingles and the flu shot.

Facts about the Flu and the Flu Shot

Health Canada describes influenza as a viral infection that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, it is estimated that between 1976 and 2007 the number of those who caught the flu ranged between a low of 3,000 to a high of 49,000 people.

During a normal flu season (October to May) 90 percent of deaths associated with the flu occur in people aged 65 years and over.(1)

The traditional flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses – the human H1N1 strain and the H3N2 strain – and one influenza B virus. The vaccines contain an inert version of the virus so that you don’t get the symptoms or pass the virus to others. However, your body develops antibodies towards those strains, giving most people complete immunity from those virus strains.

There is still the chance that you can get the flu even if you have had the flu shot. The hope is that because you’ve had the flu shot, your symptoms won’t be as severe, and the duration of your illness will be shorter than without the vaccine.

You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Again, the flu vaccine contains a “dead” version of the virus that does not infect or cause symptoms. In some cases, people have already been exposed to the virus and don’t know it.

Symptoms can appear one to four days after exposure. It takes two weeks for your body to develop flu antibodies from the flu shot.

Facts about Shingles

Shingles is caused by a completely different virus than Influenza. It is actually caused by varicella-zoster virus -- the same virus which also causes chickenpox.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes shingles as “an outbreak of rash or blisters on the skin.” (4) The first sign of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or sometimes numbness or itchiness in one particular location on only one side of the body.

Then, several days or up to a week later, a rash of fluid-filled blisters (like chickenpox) appears in this one area most commonly on the trunk of the body around the waistline.

The severity of the pain varies from person to person, but many people report agonizing, debilitating pain that leaves them unable to do the simplest things like dressing themselves. The rubbing of fabric or even the brush of air can be painful.

If you have had the chickenpox, you are at risk for developing shingles.

Scientists believe that in the original, earlier case of chickenpox, some of the varicella-zoster virus particles migrated from the blisters to the nervous system. The varicella-zoster virus reactivates and moves down to longer nerve fibers and multiplies, causing the tell-tale rash. (4)

No one really knows what triggers or reactivates the virus or why. We don't know why the immunity developed for chickenpox doesn’t also protect against shingles either.

Because shingles is its own unique virus, a completely shingles-focused vaccine was developed and is now available and recommended to those aged 50 and up, the age group most at risk for experiencing shingles.

Shingles and influenza are completely different viruses, so one cannot cause the other. The flu vaccine cannot cause shingles, neither can the shingles vaccine cause influenza.

Sources:

1. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. Accessed: Nov 27, 2014.
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

2. About the Flu. Health Canada. HealthyCanadians.gc.ca. Web. Accessed: Nov 27, 2014.
http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/flu-grippe/about-a_propos-eng.php

3. Risk. Health Canada. HealthyCanadians.gc.ca. Web. Accessed: Nov 27, 2014.
http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/flu-grippe/risks-risques-eng.php

4. NINDS Shingles Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Web. Accessed: Nov 27, 2014.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/shingles.htm

5. Flu Facts. KidsHealth.org. Web. Accessed: Nov 27, 2014.
http://kidshealth.org/teen/infections/common/flu.html

Reviewed November 28, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment12 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

My husband got shingles within days of having a flu shot last year.

May 5, 2019 - 7:19pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for writing, Anon.

There certainly seems to be a connection that the medical community deny without really listening to the experiences of others. 

Best,

Susan

May 6, 2019 - 1:20pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Every year, the lemmings at my job all run to get their free flu shots. They promptly come down with flu-like symptoms, miss work, and sneeze all over me. I'm always the last to get sick and it doesn't last long. I make it a point to never get a flu shot. Stay away from doctors and "free" shots. Both are bad for your health.

February 7, 2015 - 10:12pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Flu shots are a waste of time

January 29, 2015 - 10:40am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

All I can say is that we never heard of Shingles until they came out with the Chicken Pox vaccine and then the shot for Shingles. There is no doubt in my mind which came first.

January 24, 2015 - 11:47am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Shingles has been around long before the chicken pox vaccine.

March 7, 2015 - 6:47am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Darlene Oakley)

Shingles have been around for a long time. When I first started nursing 25 years ago it was so rare that we would all run in to see what it looked like. Now, it's so common we all know what it looks like. I am one of the unfortunate people who developed shingles after a flu vaccine. Axilla shingles, 3 months of severe shoulder pain. Correlation does not equal causation, but it does suggest we should look into it. As a nurse or physician you cannot question vaccines without being destroyed....maybe we should all be asking why that is?

August 28, 2018 - 7:11am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I am so glad that you were aware that shingles has been around many years before the vaccine. It is very frustrating to see comments from people who, through their own ignornace, have no understanding of the plethora of diseases and viruses that exist. I am always interested in reading and educating myself about the unknown.

February 14, 2015 - 3:05pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Sounds to me like the short answer is "yes".
"No one really knows what triggers or reactivates the virus or why. "
So why can't the flu vaccine trigger it? It is perfectly plausible that it is a mechanism which triggers the shingles virus, creating an outbreak. That the FDA is not reporting this as a reported side effect is illegal and a cover up in my opinion.
Nor more flu vaccines for me, ever. Better to get the flu than deal with post-herpetic neuralgia for the rest of my life!

December 8, 2014 - 3:09pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

There's a difference between saying something "causes" a disease or illness and triggering them. Shingles is not "caused" by the flu shot. The article was meant to address the question, does the flu shot cause Shingles, and the answer is no. Shingles is caused by a completely different virus.

January 25, 2015 - 3:31pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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