Examine the Evidence and…Get a Flu Vaccine
By Rosemary Laird, MD // December 30, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA–Every flu season we spend time explaining the reality of the risk vs. benefits of flu vaccination to our patients. There is much hype and folklore associated with vaccination, but the facts are clear and should strongly persuade everyone who’s eligible to get a vaccine.
Here are some common misconceptions about the flu and flu vaccination:
- The Flu is NOT a minor stomach ailment! We get complacent about influenza because we confuse it with minor stomach ailments which we call “stomach flu” and colds- which many people confuse with “the flu.” True influenza is a serious illness characterized by high fevers, severe muscle aches and a racking cough. Stomach symptoms are usually not prominent. It often lasts 2 weeks, longer than the 7-10 days colds last.
- The Flu is a VIRUS. There is no specific treatment once you get the flu. Keep in mind, since flu is from a virus, antibiotics (which only kill bacteria) are useless when the illness strikes.
- Flu shots DO NOT MAKE YOU SICK. Minor arm soreness is the only likely side effect. There’s plenty of evidence to prove this, but we don’t expect to convince some folks of that. We’ve known people who blamed the shot for any illness or symptom that they developed within a month of vaccination. Of course, since it’s given in the fall and winter, and viral illnesses increase during that time anyway, some people will claim coincidence is actually cause-and-effect.
- Flu vaccines WORK VERY WELL. Vaccination reduces illness and death from flu so much that the government and some insurers are starting to grade the quality of hospitals and doctors by how well they immunize their highest risk patients and their own employees. It is recommended for those over 50, and anyone with heart or lung disease, diabetes, cancer or other immune system weakness. Vaccination against the flu is now even recommended, and safe, for pregnant women and children 6-23 months of age. Only those allergic to eggs need to avoid flu vaccination.
- Flu is STILL A KILLER. Influenza kills about 36,000 people just in the U.S. every year! So remember, instead of worrying about the latest disease scare (SARS, Anthrax, bird flu, etc.) which altogether have killed less than 1000 people worldwide in the last decade, focus on preventing the flu in yourself and those around you.
Please get a flu vaccine, and do us and yourself a favor by passing this message and recommendation along to any of the doubters you meet this season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rosemary Laird is the founding Medical Director of the Health First Aging Institute. The Aging Institute sponsors clinics for geriatric consultation, memory loss, and primary care, and provides support for caregivers. Dr. Laird received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago, and a Geriatric Fellowship at the University of Kansas. You may contact Dr. Laird at 321-727-9764 or log on to www.eldercare.health-first.org