Ask the Expert: Will a Flu Shot Help with Colds? How Does it Work?


I’m always getting a cold – usually starts with a sore throat, then a bout of sneezing and lots of mucus. Will getting a flu shot help this? What exactly does a flu shot do?


First of all, there is a difference between cold and flu. Colds usually have milder symptoms than a flu.

Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, which usually goes away after a day or two. Nasal symptoms, runny nose, fever and congestion follow, along with a cough by the fourth and fifth days.

Flu, on the other hand, has additional symptoms like headache, muscle aches and soreness.

How Flu Vaccines are Made

A flu vaccine contains 3 different types of flu virus (usually two A types and one B type). For most vaccines, the three strains of the viruses are grown in hens’ eggs. The viruses are then deactivated and purified before being made into a vaccine.

How Flu Vaccines Work

Flu vaccines help to stimulate your body’s immune system to make antibodies which attack the flu virus.

Antibodies are proteins that recognise and fight-off germs, such as viruses, that have invaded your blood. If you catch the flu virus after you’ve had the vaccination, your immune system will recognise it and immediately produce antibodies to fight it.

It may take 10-14 days for your immunity to build up fully after you have had the flu shot. The antibodies that protect you from the flu will then gradually decrease over time.

The flu strains can also change from year to year. Therefore, you need to have a flu jab every year to ensure that you have the best protection against the latest strain of the virus.

Who Should Get a Flu Jab?

Some groups of people are advised for flu vaccination as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

These groups are (in order of priority):

  • nursing-home residents (the elderly or disabled)
  • people with chronic medical conditions (such as respiratory disease, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, neurological condition, weakened immune system)
  • elderly individuals over 65 years old and other groups such as pregnant women
  • healthcare workers, those with essential functions in society
  • children from ages six months to two years

Back to the question, for your case, it sounds more like a cold, you can try to boost up your immunity with vitamin C, plenty of water and exercise.


Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Send in your health-related questions to


Contributed by: Rachel Gan MPharm (UK), RPH, MMPS, Clinical pharmacist, proprietor of Alive Pharmacy Sdn Bhd

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