As a primary care physician, mom and patient myself, I am keenly aware of the problem of health-related information overload. Everyday, we are bombarded with messages about weight loss, cancer prevention, and heart health, anti-aging--you name it!
As an alternative to ‘paralysis by analysis,’ allow me to be your guide through a seasonal issue—the FLU VACCINE. (I promise, this won’t hurt a bit). Let’s debunk some common myths:
Myth #1: “YOU CAN GET THE FLU FROM THE FLU SHOT.”
WRONG! The flu vaccine contains NO live virus, but rather viral proteins that fool your immune system into action. When your immune system meets this worthy flu vaccine imposter, it forms an army of defense (antibodies) to influenza. If you are later exposed to the real virus, your body unleashes those soldier antibodies, and the flu is history! Years ago, the vaccine contained live viruses, so it would cause the flu on rare occasions; but that is no longer the case. Occasionally, the vaccine can cause low-grade fever or soreness at the injection site. This is a reaction to the vaccine – not a version of the flu.
Myth #2:“PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NOT GET THE FLU VACCINE."
WRONG! Influenza tends to cause more severe illness in pregnant women, when compared to women who are not pregnant. The danger: an increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth. So, moms-to- be, roll up your sleeves. As a bonus, your baby receives passive immunity that can protect them even after birth.
Myth #3: “THE FLU VACCINE HAS HARMFUL MERCURY IN IT.“
WRONG! While the flu vaccine does contain a preservative with a mercury component (called thiomerosal), this type of mercury (ethyl) is not the one linked with neurological damage (ethyl mercury).
Myth #4:“GETTING THE FLU IS AN ANNOYING THING, BUT IT CAN'T KILL YOU.“
WRONG! Sadly, between 3,000 and 50, 000 people die annually in the U.S. from the flu. It is thought that the majority of these cases could have been prevented, or at least treated successfully, had these individuals been vaccinated.
Myth #5: “I HAD THE FLU SHOT, SO I SHOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN THE STOMACH FLU.”
WRONG! True influenza is an infection of the lungs and respiratory tract. Symptoms include: high fever, nasal congestion and body aches. Intestinal symptoms are NOT typical. There are many other seasonal viruses that cause intestinal symptoms. The flu vaccine protects against influenza, but not against all circulating viruses.
Dr. Pamila Brar's recomendations for the seasonal flu vaccine:
Who should get it?
- All children ages six months to eighteen years
- People age 50 or older
- Women who are pregnant during flu season
- Adults with chronic health condition (heart disease, lung issues, diabetes, cancer)
- Nursing home residents
- Contacts of the above high risk groups
- Best time to be vaccinated? Late September, October are the best
- How long does it take to develop immunity? 2 weeks after the shot
Now that didn’t hurt a bit!
Link to flu shot clinics: sdcounty.ca.gov/Portal/flu/H1N1vaccine.html