I know we’re still in the middle of Summer but we are already being advised to get the flu shot. Apparently, it is more virulent this year and we are being advised to think about getting it sooner rather than later.
Influenza has been around for centuries. It has a deadly history, taking thousands of lives. To prevent that, scientists have worked to develop flu vaccines to help protect people from the possible harmful results of a flu infection. But, are these vaccines all they are cracked up to be?
What Is Influenza?
It is a virus. And, from what we know about viruses, there is no cure for them. The solution lies in treating the symptoms to reduce the time it takes for the disease to run its course. It helps to be healthy but even if you are not in optimum condition, you can still lower your risk of serious complications from the flu.
The Controversy: Pros
People are all for not catching the flu, but not so hot on the idea of the vaccine. First of all, as doctors will tell you: You can’t catch the flu from taking the vaccine. The flu shot is designed to produce antibodies in the body for as many strains of the flu as it is formulated for. To that end, the vaccine is made up of dead, inactivated virus.
By increasing your antibodies, the immune system is putting on armor to fight a potential flu invasion. It can increase your chances of survival and a shorter period of illness. While the shot is not 100 percent effective against the flu, it does increase your chances of NOT getting it by about 70 percent. That is good news for people who are at greater risk for the disease:
- The elderly
- Immune-compromised individuals
- Those with diabetes
- Those with asthma
- People who take care of an ill person
These groups have a greater risk of contracting the flu due to their age and surroundings. Children (for instance those in daycares) are exposed constantly to other kids who may be sick, thereby increasing their chances of catching something. Older people have more delicate immune systems and are slower to recover from the flu if they get it.
With all of the information that suggests that the flu shot is good, there is no evidence that you will be prevented from contracting the disease. In fact, you may still get it. A healthy person who is eating a well-balanced diet can reduce the duration of the flu should they get it just as well as someone who has received the shot.
Some people are concerned with the ingredients in the flu shot. Some contain thimerosal, a compound that contains mercury. Mercury at high levels can affect brain chemistry. While the levels in the flu vaccine are not going to produce this effect, getting a shot each year may put you at greater risk.
Shots can produce localized injection site reactions. You could experience redness, swelling, itching, and discomfort at the site. Some would rather forgo that if they can.
Are you going to get a flu shot this year? Weigh the pros and cons first and make an informed decision.