What Is Rabies Shots for Humans?

Caused by a virus, rabies may have serious consequences for both humans and animals. It is mainly a disease of animals but humans can get it if bitten by an infected animal. Moreover, the virus may also transmit if you are in close contact with the saliva of an infected animal. It usually spreads by licks on broken skin or mucus membranes, such as the mouth, eyes or nose. Rabies can also transmit from one person to another, but that only happens in rare cases. You can protect yourself by opting for rabies shots either before becoming infected or after getting infected. Keep reading to learn more about it.

What Is Rabies Shots for Humans?

Made from killed rabies virus, the rabies vaccine is used to prevent infection caused by the rabies virus. The active immunizing agent works by triggering an immune response, making your immune system produce antibodies to protect you against the rabies virus. It is important to understand that even though rabies shots are quite effective, they may not work for every person. Even if you have received rabies shots, you should consult your doctor if you experience rabies symptoms such as fatigue, pain, irritability, headaches, seizures, fever, paralysis, or hallucinations after bitten by an infected animal.

When and How to Get Rabies Shots

There are different types of rabies shots for humans. For instance:

Preventive Rabies Shots

  • How It Helps: As implied by the name, you need to take these vaccines before getting infected. They strengthen your immune system and help defense against the rabies virus.
  • Who Should Get It: These vaccines are suitable for people who are usually exposed to rabies virus, such as animal handlers, veterinarians, spelunkers, rabies laboratory workers, and rabies biologics production workers. You may also need to receive rabies shots before you travel to a part of the world where rabies is common.
  • How It Is Injected: You will get vaccinated in three doses. You have to take the first dose as appropriate and take another one after 7 days of your first dose. The third dose is required after 21-28 days of your first dose. Laboratory workers or those who are constantly exposed to rabies virus may require booster doses as well.

Rabies Shots After Exposure

  • Who Should Get It: If you have been bitten by an infected animal or may have been exposed to the virus somehow, you should first clean the wound and get rabies shots for humans.
  • How It Is Injected: You need to receive four doses of rabies vaccine if you have never received it before. You receive your first dose right away, whereas you need to take additional doses on the third, seventh, and fourteenth days. Your doctor will also give you rabies shot called Rabies Immune Globulin with your first shot.

Are There Any Side Effects of Rabies Shots?

Like other vaccinations, you may experience some side effects after receiving rabies shots for humans. Side effects may include:

  • Most common side effects redness, soreness or swelling in area where you receive the shot
  • Mild side effects like pale skin, nausea, wheezing, difficulty breathing, fast heartbeat, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, dizziness, pain in the joints, hives and fever
  • Rare, severe side effects like deafness and even permanent brain damage

You may consider taking OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to deal with fever and pain. You need to call your doctor if you experience any severe issues after receiving rabies shots for humans, like

  • Having a fever higher than 104°F;
  • Experiencing prickly feelings in your toes or fingers;
  • Having problems with eye movement, swallowing or speaking.

Who Should Avoid Rabies Shots

Before you opt for rabies shots for humans, you need to know when you should avoid receiving the vaccine.

  • Never go for it if you have had an allergic reaction to rabies vaccine.
  • Inform your doctor about any type of severe illness or infection you may have before receiving rabies shots.
  • People with compromised immune system caused by HIV, cancer, or AIDS should avoid it.
  • Talk to your doctor before receiving rabies shots if you are receiving treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, or any other treatment that weakens your immune system.
  • What's more, you should avoid taking rabies shots for humans if you are pregnancy because vaccines can be harmful for your baby. If you are pregnant and get rabies virus, let you doctor decide whether you should take the vaccine or not.
  • Avoid taking the vaccine if you are breastfeeding or inform your doctor about it first. 
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