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How to Make Your Flu Shot Hurt Less, According to Experts

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As cold weather approaches, our thoughts inevitably turn to all our favorite fall activities: apple picking, carving pumpkins, and gathering for the holidays. But before you head out to have your fun, it's time to consider getting your flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We know it can be tough for anyone at any age to get excited about being vaccinated. (Who likes shots, anyway?) But the good news is that experts do have some helpful tips for making your flu shot a less painful experience. 

An October 2018 study published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal showed that there are ways people can reduce their risk of shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA), which happens when a shot is injected too high in the arm, delivering the vaccine to a sensitive part of the shoulder instead of a muscle. Although many people experience a bit of a dull ache after getting the flu shot, the often undiagnosed issue of SIRVA can cause a lot more pain than necessary.

"With flu season underway and flu vaccinations widely available, both the public and health care providers should understand how to recognize and respond to SIRVA," said Kelly Grindrod, Pharm.D, in a press release. "There are strategies we can adopt to decrease the likelihood of experiencing SIRVA. When going for your flu shot, wear a sleeveless shirt or a shirt where the sleeves can easily be rolled up. Don't pull the neck of your shirt down as this can lead to a vaccine being injected into the shoulder instead of the arm. Putting your hand on your hip with your elbow out and away from the body will also help relax the deltoid muscle where the injection is going."

When to Get the Flu Shot

Flu season starts in October, so the CDC recommends anyone over the age of six months get their flu shot by the end of the month so they're safeguarded against the virus before flu season peaks in November and December. This is especially important for younger children between the ages of six months and eight years old, as they may need two doses of the flu vaccine so that they're properly protected. Because these doses have to be spaced out at least four weeks apart, it's imperative to get them started as soon as the flu vaccine is available so they're fully vaccinated by the time October ends. 

If for some reason you can't get your flu shot anytime soon, it's OK. The CDC says getting a flu shot can still be beneficial even if flu season has officially started. And now that pharmacies can administer a flu shot, it should be easier than ever to just stop in with your kids and get jabbed. Check the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to learn where you can get a flu shot, as well as several other vaccines. 

Last year's flu season was especially deadly because the flu vaccine's effectiveness was quite low — only 36 percent, according to the CDC. This year's flu vaccines have been updated to "better match" the current flu strains, so we've got our fingers crossed that the 2018 flu season isn't a repeat of 2017's.

While you're at the grocery store, you may also want to grab some of these life-extending superfoods! 



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