MS and the Flu Shot: What If You Don’t Want One?

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by Ed Tobias |

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I’ve written several times about MS and the flu. I’ve always encouraged people to get an annual flu shot, but I know some people, for whatever reasons, don’t get one.

I know I’ll never convince some of you of the benefits of this shot, no matter how much information I provide. So, please do me a favor:

If you don’t get a flu shot, at least do this

An article in The Washington Post outlines a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself — and by extension, the rest of us — from the flu. The suggestions come from Seema Lakdawala at the University of Pittsburgh and Linsey Marr at Virginia Tech, who were among a group of scientists researching how the influenza virus can spread. According to their research, the virus can remain stable in the air for up to an hour. They also cited studies showing the virus may remain on some surfaces for as long as 16 hours. So, …

Keep the flu virus off common surfaces

Clean any surfaces you touch, such as tabletops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, and toilet bowl handles, with an alcohol-based cleaner.

Wash your hands frequently.

Don’t sneeze or cough into your fist. Sneeze into the inside of your elbow to keep droplets from spreading.

Try not to shake hands with someone who seems sick, or when you feel sick. A fist-bump might be healthier. (This is my suggestion, not the researchers.)

Connect with other patients and share tips on how to manage MS in our forums!

Remove the flu virus from the air in the room

Keep windows cracked, ceiling fans running, and the air flow of HVAC systems boosted. Increasing air circulation can dilute the virus.

According to Lakdawala and Marr, an air purifier with a HEPA filter should help to remove viruses from the air. They caution, however, that no studies have directly tested this.

Wear a mask if you’re sick

If you’re sick, please do your best to keep germs from spreading to others. A surgical mask can help. A mask also might help protect you from inhaling the flu virus, but you need to keep it tight over your nose and mouth. For what it’s worth, a 2009 study reported no differences between a standard surgical mask and the heavier, tighter, and more expensive N-95 mask in terms of flu protection.

A shot would be better

This is my opinion. My wife and I got ours about 10 days ago. I hope you’ll protect yourself and others by also getting one. (Only the shot, please. Doctors say people with MS should NOT get the nasal vaccine.)

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Joan avatar


So cause I have multiple sclerosis is it better 4 me to have a flu shot cause I never get one but dont get sick like I am now

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Joan,

My neurologist and primary care doc both recommend a flu shot for me each year. If you go to the National MS Society's website you'll see the same recommendation, with very few exceptions. However, this is a discussion that you have with your doctors to see what they say.


David avatar


I never get one. I never get the flu. Wife and kids will be sick with the flu, but I never get it... Not even cold either. I have thought that my overactive MS immune system prevents colds and the flu.

Rob avatar


ME TOO Dave! I've usually gotten a few "SNIFFLES" at the END of Winter entering into Spring (could be allergies I guess), but within a couple weeks, it's gone! So, if I got sick/flu BEFORE 2012, it was rare. I was told after my diagnosis, that I'd probably catch things a lot quicker & easier than I had previously, considering the fact that the 66 infusions of Tysabri I've had, RELAPSE FREE, are supposedly, "IN THEORY", really acting as an immune system "SUPPRESSANT". HOWEVER,all thanks to the Lord, I still RARELY GET SICK! WITHOUT FLU SHOTS(although, I've had one a few different times over the years, but never ROUTINELY)!

Caro avatar


I ALWAYS get a flu shot. I couldn't handle a fever because it always makes my symptoms so much worse. I've gotten an annual flu shot for almost 30 years and I've never had a bad reaction. The only caveat is that it needs to be only the shot (ie, inactive flu strains); the flu mist is NOT advised (live strains) and that can wreak havoc on our MS. All my neurologists have always recommended it!

Herta avatar


What about a “shingle” shot - after 2 full Ocrevus infusions, I developed Shingles out of the blue.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Herta,

Shingles can appear as a sign of a herpes infection and a herpes infection is one of the known side effects of Ocrevus. Here's what the Ocrevus website says:

"OCREVUS increases your risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, skin infections, and herpes infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have an infection or have any of the following signs of infection including fever, chills, a cough that does not go away, or signs of herpes (such as cold sores, shingles, or genital sores). These signs can happen during treatment or after you have received your last dose of OCREVUS. If you have an active infection, your healthcare provider should delay your treatment with OCREVUS until your infection is gone."

I had a shingles shot several years ago. It was recommended by my primary physician and approved by my neurologist. I expect to get another, soon, using the new (supposedly improved) vaccine.


Stephanie Redden avatar

Stephanie Redden

I never get the flu shot but this year I'm going too. When I pondered this idea over in my mind unbeknownst to me I was developing a very nasty stomach bug. So when I went to the doctor I could not get a flu shot but I am going to get the flu shot next week.

Jane avatar


I would like to ask the CDC why would people get the flu shot when they may be on a drug to supress their immune systems; vaccine labels instruct use on healthy individuals.
Adavents in shots by research harm gut microbes. Flu shots not as potent with persons issues with gut microbes. MS/gut microbes research.

maureen Miller avatar

maureen Miller

My husband has MS and he received a flu shot in the early 90's and had a bad reaction to it. He was very sick. He refuses to get a shot now. His doctors agree.

Rosalind avatar


Maureen I also was very ill after a flu shot my MS went haywire for weeks after. That was my proof it can have severe effect as it happened years before but some people tried to convince me it hadn't been the shot. It clearly was!


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