Can I eat seafood after flu shot?

It’s that time of year again when flu shots are recommended to help protect against influenza. Many people get their annual flu shot in the fall around October or November. Flu season typically ramps up between December and February. Getting the flu vaccine is one of the best ways to reduce your chances of getting sick with seasonal flu.

After getting your flu shot, you may be wondering if it’s safe to eat seafood. Some people worry that eating seafood could increase side effects or interact with the flu vaccine. This concern often comes up because seafood contains higher amounts of mercury compared to other foods.

The short answer is yes, it is perfectly safe to eat seafood after getting a flu shot. There is no evidence that eating seafood will cause any problems or side effects with the flu vaccine. Nor will it make the vaccine less effective. Let’s discuss this topic in more detail.

Why Do People Worry About Eating Seafood After a Flu Shot?

Here are some of the main concerns that prompt this question about the safety of eating seafood after getting vaccinated against the flu:

  • Mercury content – Fish and shellfish contain small amounts of mercury. Some types have higher mercury levels than others due to absorbing mercury from the environment. Too much mercury exposure can harm the nervous system.
  • Vaccine side effects – Some people worry seafood might worsen common flu shot reactions like soreness, fever, headache or fatigue.
  • Effectiveness – There is a myth that you should avoid seafood after vaccination because it may interfere with the vaccine working properly.

Let’s look at the evidence behind each of these issues.

Mercury Content in Seafood

It’s true that seafood can contain traces of mercury. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and gets into waterways. Nearly all fish and shellfish absorb some mercury as they feed on other organisms.

However, for most people, mercury in seafood is not a health concern. The amount found in seafood is very small. Plus, the human body is well-equipped to eliminate low doses of mercury.

The exception is for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, mercury exposure should be minimized since it can accumulate in a developing baby’s brain and nerves.

The FDA and EPA provide guidelines on how much seafood is safe to eat during pregnancy based on mercury content:

  • Avoid high mercury choices like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of lower mercury seafood such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish and cod
  • Eat up to 6 ounces (1 average meal) per week of albacore (“white”) tuna

For the general population outside of pregnancy, the mercury levels found in seafood are not a health concern. After a flu shot, eating fish and shellfish within recommended limits is perfectly fine in terms of mercury exposure.

Vaccine Side Effects

Another question is whether eating seafood could make flu shot side effects worse. Typical side effects include:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea

These side effects are signs that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. They are normal and resolve within a day or two. There is no evidence that eating seafood would intensify or prolong these temporary flu shot reactions.

In moderation, seafood is very healthy and nutritious. It contains protein, vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids and more. If anything, the nutrients in seafood promote a healthy immune response.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Lastly, there is a myth that you should avoid seafood after getting vaccinated because it will stop the vaccine from working properly. However, this is false.

There are no food restrictions after getting a flu shot. The components of the flu vaccine work independently of diet. Nothing you eat, including seafood, will reduce the effectiveness of the flu shot.

The flu shot contains killed influenza virus. This allows your immune system to develop antibodies against the flu virus strains included in the vaccine. What you eat does not change this immune response or antibody development.

The bottom line is there is no scientific basis for the myth that eating seafood after a flu shot will interfere with the vaccine. Stick to your normal balanced diet and seafood intake.

Benefits of Eating Seafood

Not only is seafood safe to eat after a flu shot, it provides many benefits that support a healthy immune system:


Seafood is an excellent source of high-quality protein. Clams, oysters, salmon, pollock, tuna, halibut and cod are especially high in protein. Your immune system needs protein to produce antibodies and disease-fighting cells.

Vitamin D

Many types of fish are great sources vitamin D like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Vitamin D regulates immune responses and may help protect against respiratory infections like the flu.


Seafood contains the antioxidant mineral selenium. Crab, lobster, shrimp, tuna, halibut, cod and scallops are high in selenium. This mineral supports immune cell function.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines provide anti-inflammatory omega-3s. These healthy fats help regulate immune responses.


Zinc deficiency impairs immunity. Oysters contain more zinc than any other food. Other good seafood sources are crab, lobster and Alaskan king crab.

Overall, the nutritional profile of seafood is very helpful for immune defense. Far from interfering with the flu shot, eating seafood may enhance your body’s ability to fight the flu virus.

Is All Seafood Safe After the Flu Shot?

Yes, all types of seafood, including fish and shellfish, can be safely consumed after getting the influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not interact or interfere with any specific seafood.

The most important thing is to stick within recommended guidelines for seafood intake:

  • Eat 8-12 ounces of a variety seafood per week as part of a balanced diet for general health benefits.
  • Limit high mercury fish like swordfish, shark, mackerel and tilefish.
  • If pregnant or breastfeeding, follow FDA/EPA advice for maximum intake based on mercury content.

Beyond mercury considerations, any kind of cooked seafood is safe to eat before and after a flu shot. Here are some of the top choices:

Lean Fish

Safe bets include wild caught Alaskan salmon, cod, mahi-mahi, flounder, sole, tilapia, trout, catfish and more. They are lower in mercury and rich in nutrients.

Canned Fish

Canned options like tuna, crab, anchovies, sardines, salmon and oysters make good pantry staples. Rinse canned fish to reduce sodium intake.

Shellfish & Crustaceans

Clams, scallops, shrimp, lobster, crawfish, mussels, crab and oysters are excellent sources of zinc, selenium and vitamin B12 for immunity.

Salmon Roe & Other Fish Roe

Fish eggs from trout, salmon, flying fish and others provide vitamin D, antioxidants and omega-3s. Use roe as a topping or mix into dishes.

Smoked Seafood

Smoked fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and whitefish have a long shelf life. They can be eaten as is or used in salads, sandwiches, dips and more.

Again, all types of seafood are considered safe before and after you get vaccinated for the flu. Focus on cooking methods and consuming a variety of fish and shellfish within dietary guidelines.

Tips for Eating Seafood After the Flu Shot

Here are some tips for enjoying seafood safely after your flu vaccination:

  • Check advisories – Review state and local seafood advisories for waterways near you regarding fishing access and consumption.
  • Cook thoroughly – Cook fish and shellfish to 145°F/63°C minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful germs.
  • Choose low mercury – Stick to seafood lower in mercury like salmon, tilapia, shrimp, pollock and canned light tuna.
  • Eat smaller fish – Smaller fish tend to be lower in mercury since they have less time to accumulate it.
  • Limit portions – Stick to 4 ounces cooked seafood per meal for adults and less for children.
  • Include variety – Rotate different types of seafood rather than eating the same thing every day.
  • Remove skin/fat – Skin and dark fatty parts of fish can accumulate more contaminants so remove before cooking.

Following basic food safety practices ensures that any seafood you eat is safe, whether you just had a flu shot or not. Aim for 2-3 servings of seafood per week as recommended for good health.

Seafood Meals to Enjoy After Your Flu Shot

Here are some nutritious, delicious seafood recipes that are perfect after getting vaccinated against the seasonal flu:

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Salmon with Asparagus

Salmon roasted with asparagus and lemon-garlic butter is a quick, easy meal full of immunity boosters. Pair it with rice or quinoa.

Shrimp Fajita Bowls

Sauteed shrimp goes well in fajita bowls layered over rice, black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, avocado and salsa.

Tuna Poke Bowl with Rice

Make a poke bowl with cubed raw ahi tuna, brown rice, edamame, cucumbers, radish, carrots, avocado and ginger dressing.

Canned Clam Chowder

Creamy New England clam chowder made with clams, potatoes, onion and bacon is a comforting classic.

Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli

Pan-fried crab cakes paired with lemon aioli or tartar sauce make an easy, protein-packed lunch or dinner.

Grilled Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

Grilled tilapia, cod or mahi mahi stuffed into warm tortillas and topped with crunchy cabbage slaw is fresh and delicious.

Seafood Paella

The Spanish rice dish paella commonly contains a variety of seafood like shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari along with chicken and sausage.

Smoked Salmon Salad

Flaky smoked salmon served on top of greens, tomatoes and cucumbers adds a protein punch and omega-3s.

Fish & Chips

Breaded, pan-fried white fish or cod with french fries or thick-cut potato wedges is a tasty casual meal.

The high nutrition content and variety of textures and flavors of seafood make it a great addition to your diet after getting vaccinated against influenza. Listen to your body, eat when hungry and stay hydrated.

Potential Side Effects After Eating Seafood

While it’s perfectly safe for most people to eat seafood after a flu shot, a small percentage of the population is allergic to certain types of fish and shellfish. If you have a seafood allergy, the flu vaccine does not change the risk of an allergic reaction if you eat fish or shellfish that triggers your allergy.

Common symptoms of a seafood allergy reaction are:

  • Hives
  • Itching, tingling around the mouth
  • Swelling of lips, face, tongue and throat
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose and congestion
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction)

If you experience any concerning symptoms of an allergic reaction after consuming seafood, seek medical care right away, whether you recently had a flu shot or not.

People with fish or shellfish allergies should also carry emergency epinephrine. Avoid eating any seafood you are allergic to. If you have a diagnosed seafood allergy, the flu shot itself would be safe but continue avoiding any fish or shellfish that you react to.

Precautions for At-Risk Groups

While most people can eat seafood safely after getting their annual flu shot, these vulnerable groups may need to take some extra precautions:

Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women

Pregnant and nursing mothers should pay close attention to seafood intake due to potential mercury exposure. Follow the latest FDA/EPA guidelines for:

  • Avoiding high mercury fish
  • Eating lower mercury seafood within recommended limits

Consuming seafood with omega-3s during pregnancy and nursing is encouraged. Just select the safest choices more often.

Children & Infants

Limit children to 2 servings of lower mercury fish per week. Avoid giving high mercury seafood to infants and young children. Their developing brains are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury.

Immune conditions

People with weakened immune systems should take extra care with food prep and handling to avoid microbial contamination that could lead to infection. Cook seafood thoroughly and practice good hygiene.

Older Adults

Seniors may need to limit seafood intake due to health issues affected by mercury exposure, like diabetes and hypertension. It’s also important to cook seafood properly to reduce infection risks.

While most people can include seafood normally after influenza vaccination, those at risk due to mercury exposure or immune status should take some extra precautions.

Foods to Avoid After a Flu Shot

There are no foods you need to avoid or restrict after getting vaccinated for the seasonal flu. The flu shot does not interact negatively with any foods. However, there are some dietary habits during recovery from the vaccine that may optimize immune response:

  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids.
  • Eat nutritious meals – Consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and dairy.
  • Limit sugar – Added sugars can suppress immune function.
  • Avoid alcohol – Heavy drinking diminishes immune response.
  • Reduce stress – Manage stress levels through yoga, meditation, etc.

Maintaining healthy habits around sleep, physical activity and not smoking will also benefit your immune system after a flu shot. Listen to your body. Allow extra rest if needed but no special diet is required.


In summary, it is completely safe to eat seafood after getting vaccinated against the flu. Different types of cooked fish and shellfish can be consumed immediately after receiving an influenza shot without any concerns.

Seafood does not intensify common vaccine side effects or make the flu shot less effective. In fact, the nutritional benefits of seafood like protein, vitamin D, zinc and omega-3s may enhance immune response to the vaccine. Just pay attention to seafood consumption guidelines for mercury exposure, especially if pregnant or nursing.

Listen to your body, get extra rest if needed and stick to your normal balanced diet after your flu vaccination. Flu shots are an important preventive measure to lower your risk of illness during flu season without requiring any dietary restrictions. Continue enjoying the multitude of health benefits from eating different types of fish and shellfish within recommended guidelines.

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