It’s that time of year– Pumpkin-everything season! But also flu shot season.
This yearly vaccine is a sore subject for a lot of people. Among many questions, the biggest one is whether it’s really necessary to get the flu shot. Don’t make your decision based on what you think you know about the vaccine, what you’ve heard from other people, or what you’ve seen in the media. Get the facts, first! Before even beginning to uncover any answers, let’s expose some common myths and misconceptions about the flu vaccine.
“I never get the flu, so I don’t need the flu shot.”
So you’ve been lucky. That’s great! But did you know you could be carrying the influenza virus without symptoms and then pass it to someone with weaker immune system? …Someone like young children, newborns, elderly, anyone with chronic disease.
“Every time I get the flu shot, I get sick”
This one is really common and the truth is, that the flu shot is not without side effects. Side effects include: itchy eyes, headache, fever, fatigue and cough. These kinds of symptoms are not the actual flu, though, because it’s not possible to get the illness from an inactivated vaccine like this one. If you do get influenza shortly after receiving the vaccine, it could be because you were already infected with the virus. The vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to be effective.
“The flu vaccine doesnt really work”
I partly agree with this one. It’s said to be a “good, but not perfect” vaccine, by experts. That’s because it’s really only about 60% effective. Every year, scientists try to match the vaccine strains to the actual flu strains the best they can but they don’t always get it exactly right. It’s up to each individual to decide whether to increase their chances of preventing the flu or not.
“Flu shot has many dangerous chemicals in it”
I worry about these chemicals, too and wonder what the long term effects are. Flu vaccines contain chemical ingredients like thimerosal, mercury, formaldehyde, and Triton X-100.
Thimerosal is used to prevent bacterial contamination of the vaccine vial. It is broken down into a mercury chemical form. There has been a lot of controversy over whether thimerosal & mercury are linked to certain effects on children, but no study has definitively, without a doubt been able to prove it’s dangers. It’s used in tiny amounts in the flu shot, but I prefer to steer clear of it if I can. Just ask for a preservative-free flu shot.
Formaldehyde is the stuff used to preserve cadavers. Sounds gross, I know. I’m about to blow your mind with this fun fact though… Many fruits and vegetables naturally produce more formaldehyde than the amount found in the flu vaccine.
Triton X-100 is often confused with propylene glycol (anti-freeze) which is incorrect. There is no anti-freeze in this vaccine. It’s a splitting agent to help break down the inactivated virus in the vaccine.
“If I get the flu I’ll just take antibiotics”
Influenza is a virus, meaning that antibiotics won’t even make a dent if you catch this. There are two antivirals designed to fight the flu but they must be taken within 48hrs of symptoms which is challenging considering you first have to see your doctor, then likely have to wait for the pharmacy to order this specialty medication, and finally, recover from the shock of how expensive it is. Often the antivirals don’t work that well anyway. Yikes!
“Getting the flu isn’t that bad.”
Some lucky souls will only be sick for a day or two, but the majority of people are down for the count as long as a week or two. Can you really afford to be sick that long? Even worse, is that flu can lead to many complications such as respiratory issues, asthma exacerbations, pneumonia, and more. Every year thousands of people (of all ages & even “healthy” people) are hospitalized due to influenza.
“I can protect myself from the flu with a good diet and hygiene (like regular hand washing).”
While I think doing these things are always important for staying healthy and keeping your immune system strong, it’s not a guarantee. The flu virus is airborne, so it can be transmitted by someone sneezing or coughing nearby. I believe in the power of a healthy, balanced diet to help you fight off disease, even if it may not fully protect you from the illness. Living a healthy lifestyle and practicing good hygiene might lower your risk of flu-related complications or duration of the flu.
To learn more about the flu vaccine and which populations and age groups are at highest risk for contracting influenza, check out the CDC website.
It’s ultimately your call whether to get this vaccine, but realize it affects other people, too. Take time to think about the possible consequences of your choice. Now that you know the real deal on the flu shot you can make your own, informed decision about it.
>>> Comment below on what your opinion of the flu shot is.