What’s the best time of day to get your flu shot?

What’s the best time of day to get your flu shot?

Autumn means the leaves are changing, and the air is turning crisp. However, the return of cooler weather also means germs are brewing. With flu season arriving, it’s critical you receive your flu shot as a precautionary measure.

According to a study, for adults (generally 65 years and older), the time of day they receive their flu vaccine affects how well their body is able to fight off antibody resistance.

Researchers in a 2016 study from the journal Vaccine conducted a trial between 2011 and 2013, examining 276 healthy adults 65 or older and gave them their annual flu shot. Some received the shot between 9 and 11 am, while others received it between 3 and 5 pm. The researchers sought to determine whether receiving the vaccine in the morning or afternoon impacted the participants’ antibody resistance in their immune systems.

One month after receiving the flu shot, the researchers gave the adults a blood test to determine their exposure levels to H1N1, H3N2 and B strains. To analyze the results, they looked at “serum cytokines” and “steroid hormone concentrations.”

The results concluded for people who received their vaccine in the morning, there was a .03 increase in antibody response for the H1N1 and a .01 increase for the B strain. There was no change for H3N2. Participants who received the vaccine in the afternoon illustrated a lower response in those two strains.

“The study may provide a way for medical systems to improve the effectiveness of vaccinations for our patients by increasing access to vaccines earlier in the day,” says Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group.

Why in the morning? The researchers note that’s when your steroid hormones are most active, so it enhances your immune system, in turn, creating a greater antibody response.

Keep in mind every vaccine is different, and the morning may not be applicable to all vaccinations. Regardless, it’s most important to take preventative measures to improve your body’s ability to fight the flu.

Dr. Hampton recommends the following actions:

  1. Keep your hands out of your face: Doorknobs, computers, handshakes and other exposures will lead to most of the infections we suffer from. By simply keeping your hands away from your face, your exposure to germs will be greatly decreased.
  2. Reduce sugar and carbs: Sugar feeds parasites and depletes our body of critical immune nutrients like vitamin C and Zinc. Eat a lower carb, higher fat diet to strengthen your immune system.
  3. Get more sleep: Ever noticed you tend to get sick more often when you are sleep deprived? Lack of sleep increases stress, which disrupts normal healing and causes body inflammation. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep to keep your body’s immune function at its highest level.
  4. Reduce stress: Negative thoughts can be harmful to your immune system, increasing body inflammation just like decreased sleep. Consider meditation and positive thinking strategies to reduce your overall stress.
  5. Drink plenty of water: Make sure your water is purified so that you are not exposing yourself to heavy metals, arsenic and other chemicals. Water is nature’s healer.

“How healthy you are will require more than making sure you get your flu vaccine at the right time. It’s looking at your total health. What you eat, how much you exercise, how much sleep you get and stress reduction will do more to keep you from getting the flu than anything else you do,” says Dr. Hampton.

To schedule your flu shot, call your primary care physician, or find one near you.

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About the Author

Kelsey Andeway
Kelsey Andeway

Kelsey Andeway, health e-news contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a senior at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing, baking, and taking long walks with her Chocolate Lab.