Paralysis after a flu shot is an uncommon but serious condition that can have lasting implications for your health and wellness. Also known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, this paralysis happens when your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. The CDC estimates that up to 6,000 people a year may develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving their annual flu vaccine, but the number of people who develop milder symptoms that go undiagnosed may be much higher.
Flu Vaccine Complications
While usually safe and effective, flu vaccine injury cases happen every year as people line up to get their annual immunizations. The flu shot isn’t the only source of vaccine-related injuries, as most vaccines, including TDAP, Hepatitis, and Gardasil vaccines, come with the risk of an adverse effect. As one of the most commonly received vaccinations in the world, however, incidents of flu shot paralysis are more frequent.
What Happens When You Get Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
In Guillain-Barre Syndrome, your own antibodies (cells which are meant to find and eliminate infections from foreign substances or organisms in your body) instead recognize your own nerves as a foreign source of infection. As they attack and damage nerve cells, the damage begins to cause certain physical symptoms. As the damage worsens, the symptoms spread and worsen. Without treatment, this can quickly become painful, debilitating, and even fatal.
Our nervous system carries electrical impulses between our brain and body. Signals travel via bundles of nerves that run from our brain, down through our spine before branching off into every area of the body. These bundles of nerves are wrapped in a sheath that both protects them and serves as an insulator so that the electrical impulses have free and uninterrupted movement along these nerve pathways. Disrupting these signals is what leads to paralysis after the flu shot.
Antibodies, incorrectly recognizing your own nerves as a potential infection, begin attacking the sheath surrounding your nerves. As this sheath is damaged, the nerve impulses are disrupted. At first, the disruption is minor and most of this vital two-way communication is still getting through, creating discomfort but not impeding function. As more of the sheath is destroyed, followed by the nerves inside, flu shot paralysis only becomes worse.
Symptoms Of Paralysis After The Flu Shot
While for some the flu shot causes paralysis, it usually starts as a numbness or tingling sensation. Many people may have a slight sensation at the injection site, which is usually not concerning, but for some, the tingling starts in their feet and legs. This tingling begins to spread, and numbness soon follows. As feeling is lost in areas, so is functional control, leaving victims with the inability to feel or move affected areas even as it keeps spreading. Eventually, this can create a host of complications requiring medical intervention:
- Severe Pain – When nerves are damaged, the tingling sensations and numbness can give way to searing pain as your body’s communication system struggles to transmit signals that are disrupted or out of control.
- Loss of Muscle Control – Paralysis after flu shot can last for an extended period of time. In addition, residual episodes as your damaged nerves struggle to repair themselves may occur, causing your body to fail without predictability.
- Cardiovascular Problems – Your heart and lungs are also controlled by your nervous system, so as it becomes compromised, so can they. This can lead to heart arrhythmias, breathing difficulties, fluctuating blood pressure, and all the health risks that go with them, such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Blood Clots, Atrophy, and Bed Sores – Our bodies were meant to move. Unused muscles begin to lose their tone and strength. Blood clots can form, causing potentially fatal blockages or strokes. Finally laying in bed, unable to move for an extended period can damage your skin, leading to infections.
- Spontaneous Relapse – In addition to residual effects, some people who experience paralysis after their flu shot due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome will recover, then spontaneously relapse months or years later.
Flu Vaccine Injury Treatment
Many of the most severe symptoms of paralysis after a flu shot require complex medical care and hospitalization. Without medical intervention, victims can suffer long-term health consequences, and these complications can easily prove fatal. Minor symptoms, such as a light numbness or tingling may pass on their own, however, if the condition spreads or persists, medical help should be sought immediately.
During an initial visit, your doctor will collect your medical history and conduct a physical exam to ensure there’s not a physiological cause for the numbness, such as a pinched nerve. Further tests may be required to diagnose certain conditions, like Guillain-Barre. This can include spinal taps to check the condition of your spinal fluid and electrode tests on affected muscle groups. These give a fuller picture of your nerve activity.
Treatments can vary depending on the diagnosis. Milder cases might simply require observation and rest. For more severe paralysis after a flu shot, plasma exchange, where your body’s plasma is replaced, immunoglobulin therapy which introduces healthy donor antibodies to your system, or full hospitalization may be required. The most affected patients may need ventilator support to continue breathing, aggressive therapy to aid their heart’s function, and manual manipulation of their muscle groups by medical professionals to stave off atrophy, avoid clots, and keep the skin healthier.
Getting The Help You Need After A Vaccine Injury
While a flu shot may cause paralysis, leading to high medical bills, you may be able to get the financial compensation that helps mitigate the healthcare costs you need to save your life and rebuild your health. The Vaccine Injury Compensation & Payouts Program (VICP) is a streamlined federal program to aid those who have been harmed by the very vaccinations that are supposed to protect us. While the process is clear, an experienced Philadelphia injury attorney can help you file your claim and give you the best chance of getting the approval you need for a payout.
Our vaccine injury lawyers are ready to talk to you, and the initial consultation is free of charge. Your attorney will talk to you about your specific situation, your options moving forward, and if the VICP program is right for your case. Each step of the way they’ll help you understand your rights, then fight for them as your claim works its way through the system. If you’ve suffered from paralysis after the flu shot, contact Anapol Weiss and start rebuilding your life today.