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Peripheral Neuropathy Q&A: Flu and Shingles Shots

Question: Should patients with peripheral neuropathy get flu or shingle shots?

Answer: In general, everyone should get the flu shot every year and, as per CDC guidelines, people age 50 and older should get the shingles vaccine. In addition, people with various medical conditions should also get the shingles shot even if they are under 50.

The new vaccine is made from recombinant DNA and you can not get chickenpox or shingles from the shot.

The question that comes up is if people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), also called acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, should get the flu shot. The only people in this category who should not get the flu vaccine are those whose GBS is CLEARLY related to having had the flu vaccine, and this is a very very small number of people.

For garden variety PN (associated with diabetes, alcohol use, chemotherapy, etc.) there is no contraindication to getting both vaccines. Indeed, people with diabetes, heavy alcohol use and cancer are usually a bit immunocompromised and need the flu and shingles shots even more than the average healthy person. With some hematological cancers people can not have vaccines that are made from live- attenuated virus, they can only get vaccines from killed virus or recombinant vaccines. Their cancer doctors will know all about that and can advise them.

Response from Dr. Janice Wiesman, MD, FAAN, Author of Peripheral Neuropathy: What It is and What You Can Do to Feel Better

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