Get a Flu Shot or Skip It This Year: What's Healthier for You?
Have you decided whether or not to get a flu shot this year? Silly as it might seem, I struggle with the decision every year. The naturalist in me hesitates. Meanwhile the fear of a 103-degree fever pushes me toward the nearest drugstore.
If you’re sitting on the fence with me, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Get the Shot: Remember the winter of 2017? Last year’s flu was an especially bad one, killing over 80,000 Americans. While 90% of those folks were over age 65, experts say we’re all vulnerable to serious health risks if we don’t protect ourselves. Plenty of young, healthy men and women were admitted into intensive care units, suffering with the seasonal flu.
On the Other Hand: Even among the very elderly, risk of death from the flu is extremely small – about 1 in 1,000 (0.1%). What’s more, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits that last year’s vaccine was less than 40% effective. And, finally, many naturopaths consider fever a healthy workout for a sturdy immune system. In other words, you might just be healthier on the other side of the flu than you would have been if you’d never caught it.
Get the Shot: Many doctors and researchers say that if you do get the flu despite having been vaccinated, you’ll end up with a milder version of the illness. And you’ll be less likely than non-vaccinated people to end up with pneumonia – a major complication of the flu.
On the Other Hand: Every year’s vaccine is nothing more than scientists’ best guess at what virus to combat. The exact flu shot formulation is developed annually, no later than February, for a virus that won’t become active until the fall. By then, experts admit, it could have adapted and changed form. That helps explain why some years’ vaccines have such low effectiveness rates.
Get the Shot: Many argue that the flu shot is a social responsibility. After all, everybody gets the flu from somebody else. The CDC reports that you’ll be contagious one day before you start to feel even the slightest bit sick and for up to seven days after you come down with fever. During that time, you can expose those around you without knowing it.
One the Other Hand: Once you’re vaccinated, it takes two full weeks to be fully protected. During that time you can catch the flu and expose others to it. What’s more, after 90 days, the vaccine can prove ineffective to any new flu strains circulating in the environment.
If You Decide to Get the Vaccine: Realize that timing is important. In other words, it matters A LOT when you get your flu shot. As since we’re already into fall, the sooner the better because the flu really starts to spread as the weather cools down. That’s partly because flu viruses have protective coatings that need colder temperatures to stay alive. So you want to be fully protected before the chill sets in.
Also remember that children ages 6 months to 8 years need two doses spaced four weeks apart. So if you’re going to vaccinate your kids, they should get their first shot quite early – basically as soon as it becomes available in your area.
If You Decide Against the Flu Shot: Be proactive about boosting your natural immunity. Here are a few tips:
- A healthy diet is essential for immunity. Emphasize quality protein, dark leafy greens, and essential fatty acids
- Avoid refined sugars and saturated fats.
- Stress lowers immunity. So find ways to decompress. Daily.
- Take a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement. Look for one that provides Vitamins B complex, C and E, along with zinc and selenium.
- Boost your vitamin D. Experts say that as many as half of all Americans may be D deficient. And a healthy vitamin D blood level helps protect you from upper respiratory tract infection. So consider supplementing with 2,000-5,000 IU daily.
Good luck! Be well.