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? I struggle with the decision every fall. The naturalist in me hesitates. Meanwhile the fear of a 103-degree fever pushes me toward the nearest drugstore.
If you’re still sitting on the fence with me, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Get the Shot: Remember the winter of 2018? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), last year’s flu was the worst one since the "swine flu" epidemic of 2009. More than 61,000 Americans died from it. While most of them 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 severe 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, last year’s vaccine was only 25% effective against the dominant strain that season. And, finally, many naturopaths consider fever a healthy workout for a sturdy immune system. In other words, if you're a generally healthy specimen, you might just be healthier on the other side of the flu than you will be if you don't catch it at all.
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 starting one day before you feel sick, and you'll stay contagious for up to seven days after you come down with fever. During that time, you can expose countless people without even 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: It matters A LOT when you get your flu shot. 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 real chill sets in.
If your arm feels sore or you feel a bit achy for a few days following the injection, it's safe to use aspirin to help you over the hurdle. Once the band aid comes off, you can also soothe the sore muscle injection site with a topical pain reliever like Premiere's Pain Spray or Roll-On.
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.