As a health journalist who’s read the research on how much the flu shot can reduce your risk of catching the flu, I’m a big supporter and encourage everyone to get one if you can.
Even if you don’t think the risk reduction is worth it for you to bother getting the shot or you think you can weather through a bout of the flu just fine, in my opinion, getting inoculated plays an even more important role: It helps prevent adults with healthy immune systems from passing the flu virus on to people with compromised immune systems for whom it could be deadly, such as infants, the elderly and those battling illness or disease. Basically, this one little shot is an easy way to take one for the team.
Naturally, I’m planning to get my flu shot like I do every year. And, like most everything in my life, I’m scheduling the shot around my monthly hormone cycle, making a point to get it during my Week 2.
If you’re also planning to get your flu shot and have the ability to schedule it at a certain time in your monthly hormone cycle, then I recommend that, like me, you get it during your Week 2 (which starts 8 days from the onset of menstruation in a 28-day cycle–sooner in shorter cycles).
That’s because on these days in your cycle, high estrogen helps lessen the pain of the shot and post-injection arm muscle soreness by blunting pain sensations.
Can’t schedule your influenza vaccine for a high-estrogen day? Or do you reallyreallyreally dread the pain of a flu shot?
Then, ask if your doctor, nurse or pharmacist has an “intradermal needle”, which uses a needle that’s 90% shorter and is injected into the skin rather than the muscle–so there’s less pain.
Also, try coughing. Sounds strange, but research (such as this study and this study) suggests that coughing at the moment the needle touches your skin can mask the pain of a shot, possibly by triggering a sudden rise in blood pressure or by simply distracting you.
I actually use this easy cough trick every time I get a shot–and it works for me.
If you plan to try it, be sure to give the person administering the shot a heads-up that you’re going to cough when the needle touches your arm. Otherwise, you can startle him or her. And startling someone with a needle isn’t the best move you can make if you don’t like pain.
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