It’s that time of year again: “Doc, should I get a flu shot… or not?”
Well. That’s a great question.
I don’t – and can’t – counsel patients on the use of pharmaceuticals, as chiropractors don’t utilize drugs as part of our natural healing approach.
Let me share with you what I tell my patients.
If you have great health and practice good health habits to keep your immune system strong, you quite likely will not get the flu or any other type of winter nasties. Need I remind you of the good habits I am speaking of? Eating well, getting adequate sleep, exercising, managing your stress and washing those damn hands again and again! For more on this, see my article ‘The Non-Flu Season’.
Does this sound like you, or are you sheepishly averting my virtual gaze, because your car is littered with fast-food wrappers, you haven’t broken a sweat since “Magic Mike” came out and the last time you slept more than 6 hours was when your alarm clock failed? If so, I can promise you that your defenses are down, and if you are unlucky enough to come into contact with the flu, you are much more likely to get it.
Bottom line? People with healthy, strong immune systems are much less likely to get the flu than their less-healthy counterparts. They are also far less likely to have any adverse reaction to ingredients in the vaccine itself. Did you ever think about that? Immunocompromised folks – the young, infirm and elderly – are more vulnerable to the both the flu and reactions to the vaccine.
In fact these flu two studies made me go, “Hmmmm”:
The gist? Kids who get the flu vaccine are more likely to be hospitalized than their non-vaccinated peers. Vaccinated elderly adults are just as likely as non-vaccinated seniors to visit their doctors for flu-like symptoms. So what in the hell should you do?
You should make informed decisions about your health – always!
Here are some facts and figures to ponder on the flu:
The Truth About the Flu Shot — “In a review of 48 reports including more than 66,000 adults, “Vaccination of healthy adults only reduced risk of influenza by 6% and reduced the number of missed work days by less than one day (0.16) days. It did not change the number of people needing to go to hospital or take time off work.”
Key Facts on the Flu — “The flu shot: Some minor side effects that may occur are: soreness – redness, or swelling where the shot was given – fever (low grade) – aches. The nasal spray: In children, side effects from the nasal spray may include: runny nose – wheezing – headache – vomiting – muscle aches – fever. In adults, side effects from the nasal spray vaccine may include: runny nose – Headache – Sore throat – Cough.”
The last one did go on to say that these symptoms are ‘short-lived’, but still….
Another little tidbit that I found interesting is that each year’s flu vaccine is derived from prior years’ flu virus. For instance, the 2013 flu vaccine was made from strains from 2009, 2011 and 2012. That’s all well and good, except that the flu virus is a crafty little bugger, and mutates quickly and often. So something that may have worked against a strain in the past quite likely won’t work at all in future strains.
Again, hmmmmm. When all is said and done, read and ask questions, but ultimately, go with your gut. It will rarely lead you astray.