MS and the Flu Shot

MS and the FluIt’s that time of year again when the leaves start falling off the trees in earnest, the weather turns cooler, and the sniffles start to spread around offices and schools. Welcome to cold and flu season. When it comes to preventing the common cold or the flu, there are different strategies to avoid these viral infections. One of the more polarizing options for people who have chronic conditions like MS, is whether or not to get the flu shot.

To Get the Flu Shot, or Not to Get the Flu Shot

MSAA’s Chief Medical Consultant, Dr. Jack Burks says, “While there is still some controversy, even for people without MS, the research indicates that the ‘flu shot’ with an inactivated flu vaccine is recommended and does not increase the risk of an MS attack.” Getting a shot is never a fun experience. There is a version of the vaccine available as a nasal spray. However, most doctors do not recommend this “live vaccine” version, because the side effects of the nasal spray can be more severe than the flu shot. Therefore, the nasal vaccine is not recommended for people with certain conditions, including MS.

MS Relapses and the Flu Shot

Research shows that the shot itself does not increase the risk of an MS relapse. However, if you are currently experiencing a relapse, or recently experienced one, you may want to discuss delaying the shot with your healthcare team. According to Dr. Burks, anyone who gets the flu shot “may experience some arm soreness and mild fever and malaise for a few days.”

MS and the Flu

According to the CDC, flu vaccinations are effective at reducing your risk of getting the flu. But what happens if you end up with the flu anyway? Contact your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms. The flu virus can be severe for some people. Dr. Burks recommends consulting your doctor and beginning anti-flu medication within 1-2 days of the first symptoms.

As with any updates or changes to your healthcare regimen, be sure to consult your doctor or healthcare team before getting vaccinated.

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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