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Originally published on 20th September 2018 Last updated on 1st October 2022
Vaccinations are always a controversial topic and among thyroid patients, the flu shot / flu jab especially.
So, should we thyroid patients be getting the flu jab?
Firstly, What is it?
The flu jab (injected vaccination) stimulates your body’s immune system to make antibodies that attack the flu virus, when it inserts non-live flu virus in to the body.
The idea is that if you’re then exposed to the flu virus after you’ve already had the flu vaccine, your immune system will recognise the virus and immediately produce antibodies to fight it off, lowering your chances of coming down with the flu. Despite common misconceptions, the flu jab cannot cause the flu because it is a non-live version.
In The UK
In the UK, the flu jab is offered for free to many people every year. Anyone aged 65+, pregnant, children and adults with an underlying health condition (making them higher risk for complications of the flu) or weakened immune system are offered the jab at no cost (on the NHS).
It’s important to know however that having hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s doesn’t automatically entitle you to a free flu vaccine on the NHS. Whereas some GP’s may approve those with a thyroid condition to have a free flu jab, it’s not standard for all, and whether you have other conditions alongside will also play a part.
If you’re not entitled to a free flu jab, you can pay £10 to have it privately instead.
But the question still remains – should we be having them at all? I break this down further on in the article.
In The US
How about the US?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yearly flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone aged six months plus. In particular, they place an emphasis on pregnant women, those aged 50+, children under five, those resident in nursing homes or care facilities and people with conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, endocrine disorders (such as thyroid disease) and kidney, liver and metabolic disorders.
Should Thyroid Patients Get The Flu Jab?
Always speak directly with your doctor about whether they believe you’re particularly at-risk for complications of the flu.
I’m not going to get in to the debate about the general controversy surrounding various vaccines, for which many people have strong views for and against, but instead just look at the flu jab in relation to thyroid disease and also autoimmune disease.
I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should get the flu jab, as I couldn’t possibly make that decision for you. Instead I’m hoping to give you the information you need to help you make a well-informed decision yourself.
Autoimmune Disease Concerns
For most of us with hypothyroidism, we have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s to thank. Around 90% of us have Hashimoto’s as the culprit causing our hypothyroidism , but many thyroid experts and specialists are concerned about the flu vaccination making Hashimoto’s worse. Some have even said they’ve witnessed a decline in their client’s health after having the vaccine, such as a thyroid / Hashimoto’s flare.
Therefore, asking whether or not you should get the flu jab as an autoimmune disease patient, is a reasonable question, as the vaccine interacts with your immune system.
There are no studies which seem to show the flu vaccine directly affecting thyroid health and function, but equally, there aren’t studies solidifying that it is completely safe either.
We do know that it affects the immune system though, as the very point of the vaccine is to have the body produce antibodies against the virus. This isn’t ‘natural‘ in a sense, and enough research hasn’t been conducted to know the possible outcomes, but for those with autoimmune conditions, it’s not unreasonable to question how these can be affected.
Weighing it up
Weighing up the chances of:
A) getting the flu vaccination and it flaring up your thyroid condition
B) not having the vaccination and getting ill (and possibly very ill) from the flu and this flaring up your thyroid condition, isn’t easy.
We may feel as if our choice is between going without the vaccination and risking catching the flu and it making us very ill, with having the vaccine and that worsening our health instead. It’s a bit of a double edged sword! And no one can say what your reaction will be until it is done.
Whether you decide that the flu jab is for you or not, remember that the best way to avoid contracting the flu is with good hygiene and certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Bone broths, Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Selenium all support the immune system, as does a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet.
Washing your hands, maintaining a good sleep schedule and keeping stress levels low also all help to avoid coming down with illness. For more information on looking after your thyroid health in the winter, check out this article.
In my case, I opt to get the flu jab every autumn. I have contracted a nasty strain of flu twice in my lifetime already. The latest, at 17-years-old, put me in the ICU, on life support and fighting for my life.
Weighing up whether the vaccine causes a flare up (not that it ever has) in my thyroid symptoms against contracting the flu and it putting me in hospital, is a no-brainer in my case. But everyone’s case is different and only you will know what you’re comfortable doing. Flu vaccine or no flu vaccine.
Do you get the vaccine? Feel free to share in the comments below but please be respectful of other people’s opinions too!
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
LizOctober 18, 2022 at 5:47 pm
I had subacute thyroiditis following my first flu jab which has caused my hypothyroidism Doctors denied that the vaccine could cause thyroiditis, however after doing my own research I found links to the flu vaccine causing subacute thyroiditis. I realise this is a very rare occurrence and I would never advise anyone to skip their vaccine, I suppose I was just unlucky
Val MillerOctober 21, 2021 at 6:07 pm
Diagnosed at almost 72 years old, now 76, I’ve had the flu shot annually from the age of 70 as recommended by my doctor. I’ve had no problems other than a sore arm fir a day or two I too have Hashimotos
rejoiceMay 24, 2021 at 8:25 pm
I always subclinical hyperthyroidism for years . Not treated
In June 6 2020, I took a flu vaccination and towards the end of June, my sleep has been affected , worsening and on July 7 , my blood test indicated that my T3 and T4 level has worsened with palpitation and sleepless. I reviewed the result on 14/7 as recommended by my GP, In fact base on my result, the GP should proactively asked me to go back before 14/7.
During the review, my GP refuse to investigate me promptly and denied my thyroid requires treatment or further investigation like thyroid scan, keep saying my thyroid was well control. But my palpitation and sleep quality worsen further.. On 15/7, I was in emergency because of palpitation , short of breath and sleepless. The emergency check my blood again and found that my thyroid level spike to 24.7. Heart palpitation 125-135 which I felt quite discomfort I was on anti-thyroid medication and inderal The journey is quite tough . My sleep quality improve as I can sleep a longer hours 5-6
I am wondering if there is a correlation between my thyroid level and flu vaccination though that GP is very quiet about this issue and the new GP say it is unlikely. My current dose of vaccination expire very soon and due for another vaccination. Wondering I should take it
During the past 12 months I don’t catch flu or cold. However, I am wondering if it is because I staying at home more often and use face mask whenever I go out coz because of pandemic and lock down rule. I also eat very healthy more fruits and veg.
In fact, I had flu shot in 2018 but did catch flu and cold. And I didn’ t take flu shot before 2018. I did have flu or cold but recover on its own
Chris odtJanuary 23, 2020 at 2:08 pm
I am 67, diagnosed with Hashi when I was 10. So a life altering diagnosis but not a life threatening diagnosis, with all the usual symptoms. In 2005 I got my first flu shot and ended up in bed for 3 months with what was eventually diagnosed as Fibromyalgia. I spent 10 years getting acupuncture for it, that was the only treatment that kept me functioning. No drugs helped. Then I had a low B12 scare and my Dr suggested I go to a DF and GF diet. My fibromyalgia aches and pains disappeared and my autoantibodies dropped from 900 to 200. First time in my life they were that low. Then last winter my Dr “insisted” I get the pneumonia vaccine. Again, a bad reaction. Bad bad cold/flu, 3 weeks in bed, I finally went to the Dr and they pumped me full of antibiotics. I was feeling better within 24 hours. Now I am being told I should get the Shingles vaccine, but am very very wary. Summary: vaccines can be bad!, in specific situations. And a nutrient dense diet DOES make a difference in your health. For that part of my life I follow Dr T Wahls, Dr A Myers and Dr M Hyman. All 3 of these docs have had recoveries from autoimmune issues using diet and lifestyle changes when western medicine completely failed them.
Kathryn PosadasDecember 3, 2019 at 11:38 pm
I notice a few days of drag after getting the flu shot. At the most, up to 7 days, but not debilitating. I know it’s my immune system flaring up some. I’ve gotten in the habit of getting the shot when I know I have a long weekend or time off work so I can sleep a lot and counter the flare up. The flu is soo much worse than a couple of days of taking it easy to balance out the flare up.
Rachel HillDecember 10, 2019 at 12:26 pm
Thank you for sharing.
Sue GNovember 13, 2019 at 4:03 am
Great article and comments. I am in this ‘should I/should I not’ debate with myself this year. I haven’t had the flu shot for 4 yrs. Status: 67 yrs old, Hashi’s, recent “asthma” diagnosis after getting H1,N1 last spring-hospitalized for 3 days that. I can so relate to all the concerns addressed with everyone. I’m still on the fence personally, but leaning toward getting the vaccine this year. I have 2 grandsons that visit, perpetually coughing & snuffing, and really don’t want another hospital visit. What’s a grandma to do ?
da-ALNovember 4, 2019 at 12:56 am
great info – many congrats on your 2 books! wishing you the best – just learned of them at Caz’s Invisibly Me site 🙂
RuthOctober 20, 2019 at 10:54 am
I’ve had the flu jab for years, in fact since contracting flu and never recovering from it. In the UK it’s not a live virus so it’s impossible to get flu from it, however, it is normal for your arm to feel a bit heavy and sore the day after as it goes directly into the muscle at the top of your arm. I’ve only once had a reaction following the injection in the last 20 years, took antihistamines for a few days and the swelling went down, I can’t conclusively say it was the jab as it’s possible that I was bitten by a mosquito at around that time
DorothyOctober 18, 2019 at 2:33 am
I had my flu injection this year after nearly 1 year of taking T3 only (no thyroid) and for approximately 6 weeks had symptoms equalling Epstein Barr Virus which I had had years previously. My GP was unsure as to what had caused such a reaction, but I was ‘washed out’ for that period of time. Thinking long and hard if I would have it again.
Sue D.October 17, 2019 at 10:38 pm
Really helpful view of pros and cons. I’m slowly learning about my immune system and how to support it rather than challenge it further. Wondering have you come across shingles and hashi. I’ve had shingles twice already and dread the thought of a third bout now. Working out whether I should have shingles jab.
Mary BoyajeanOctober 13, 2019 at 2:00 pm
excellent and helpful news for me. I am new to this illness and I also have A-fib. As a senior citizen, I am eager to stay as current as possible with all the necessary methods to do so. I am pleased to find your writings, thank you!
JingOctober 4, 2019 at 6:16 pm
I had flu shot every year because I was a healthcare worker. Early this year, I became very ill for couple months and the diagnose was subacute thyroiditis. I am wondering is this because of vaccination? From reading your article, I agree that vaccination might be related to subacute thyroiditis. I decide not to get the flu shot.
KimNovember 16, 2022 at 3:37 pm
I had COVID in July and developed thyroiditis. Apparently COCID can cause this and it’s not really being talked about a lot.
I’m on the fence about taking the flu vaccine. Any viral infection can flare this up. I’m still recovering. My endocrinologist suggests waiting until February to see if my labs are back to normal.
Debbie smithSeptember 28, 2018 at 1:24 pm
Thank you for the valuable info….the last time I had the flu it was the year the vaccination was ‘off’. I hope to never be so ill again but I wasn’t hypo then…I never miss the vaccination as I am too afraid of getting the flu and also I work in healthcare and need to protect all..
StaceySeptember 28, 2018 at 8:44 am
Oh, this is so tricky for me! I was diagnosed with asthma earlier this year, apparently I’ve had it for many years now, and I *have* to take the flu shot to protect my lungs. (I don’t get the flu often but when I do it’s really bad, I literally can’t breathe). But I also have Hashimot’s. I feel like I’ve won the worst DNA lottery jackpot sometimes.
Rachel HillSeptember 28, 2018 at 9:17 am
I joke about winning the bad health lottery too! It is hard to make a decision that seems like a double edged sword.
Caz / InvisiblyMeSeptember 22, 2018 at 5:08 pm
This really is such a tricky one, and as you say you don’t really know until you get the jab! It’s a very important issue to raise because it’s time to be thinking about it and making the decision. With a compromised immune system it’s often promoted as being something you ‘should’ have done, and with various conditions like thyroid issues or asthma or connective tissue disease, the jab becomes all the more complex because you never really know whether the risk is higher with it or without it. I had a flu jab last year and thankfully didn’t have any adverse effects so I’ll be opting for it again this year… really must get that booked in, thanks for the reminder!