As well as the symptoms caused by 'flu', the fever associated with the infection can lead to a worsening of multiple sclerosis symptoms for those people with MS who are adversely affected by heat.
A study of 49 people with MS reported that five experienced fever or flu-like symptoms after vaccination. No-one reported any new neurological symptoms or had complications or needed hospitalisation.
A study reviewing all of the research into flu vaccination and MS found that vaccination was effective in people with MS and offered them protection from flu infection. Although disease modifying drugs affect the immune system, most did not stop the vaccination from being protective against flu infection.
The Department of Health's guidelines state that, "The medical practitioner should apply clinical judgement to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from flu itself." It also states that "Clinicians should consider on an individual basis the clinical needs of patients including individuals with ... multiple sclerosis..."
The Department of Health's guidelines also currently state that the flu vaccine should also be offered to all who are in receipt of carer's allowance, or are the main carer for a person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
In Scotland, Immunisation Scotland encourage people with MS to get the flu jab.
NHS Choices advises people with MS who feel they are getting the symptoms of flu, or have been in contact with someone who is, to talk to thier GP. There are antiviral drugs available that can reduce the effects and duration of an episode of flu, but these are most effective when taken as soon after infection as possible.
- Journal of the Neurological Sciences 2012;314(1-2):102-103. Summary Seasonal and H1N1v influenza vaccines in MS: safety and compliance.
- Journal of Neurology 2011;258(7):1197-1206. Summary Immunizations and risk of multiple sclerosis: systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Neurology 2002;59(12):1837-1843. Summary Immunization and MS: a summary of published evidence and recommendations.
- Vaccine 2014;32(37):4730-4735. Summary Efficacy of vaccination against influenza in patients with multiple sclerosis: the role of concomitant therapies.
Last updated: November 2017
Last reviewed: February 2015
This page will be reviewed within three years