Should I Get My Annual Flu Shot?
Should I Get My Annual Flu Shot? [print_link]
It is that time of year when we are inundated with requests to get our flu shot. The constant ads on television from the Ontario government and our physicians and even employers are not asking if you want to be vaccinated for Influenza A but how soon can you get it done. In my opinion, being vaccinated with old strains of Influenza Type A and Type B viruses is a total waste of time and of taxpayer’s dollars.
We will be encouraged to protect ourselves against the H1N1 influenza strain. Even though it was the mildest strain in our history, causing fewer deaths than any other influenza virus, the pressure is on for all of us to be vaccinated. The new flu vaccine for this year is called Intanza and contains the A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) strain. Of course, should this strain mutate then the vaccine will not work.
If we used modern technology, the flu shot could be a very effective weapon against the flu. However, we use 50 year old methods in which we harvest the three most virulent forms of Influenza viruses that have occurred in the last five years and put them into a vaccine. This vaccine once injected into a human body triggers Lymphocyte B Cells in your immune (lymphatic) system to produce antibodies that are specific for these viruses. If any of these strains enter your body, they will be immediately recognized and destroyed. The problem with this method is that viruses mutate more frequently and more rapidly than any other living organism on this planet. It is highly unlikely that any of the old viruses will visit us in the future, but we will be exposed to new potent ones that are immune to our vaccine. This is why every year 500 to 1500 Canadians die from Influenza and the number goes up to 2000 if you include the complications of pneumonia caused by the invading virus.
It has also been shown that the immune systems of people over 75 years of age are not healthy enough to respond to the vaccine so even though they have had the shot they do not produce enough antibodies to give them protection against these viruses.
We should welcome the H1N1 virus if it comes back this year because it was so benign and caused so few deaths. This year’s influenza vaccine contains last years H1N1, A/Perth/16/2009(H3N2)-like strain and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like strain which is a Type B influenza variety. . If any of these viruses mutates to a more deadly form you will have no protection from the original flu shot.
There is a tremendous amount of new research to find a common protein or a series of proteins called peptides which are common to all Influenza viruses, no matter how much they mutate. We could then have one vaccine that could give you permanent immunity. The research and development of this vaccine is very expensive but the pharmaceutical companies would rather produce the vaccine the old way because it is so cheap to produce and they make a fortune selling the new version to our government every year. Not only that, governments of United States and Canada protect them against liability claims by anyone who may have an adverse reaction to the influenza vaccine.
There is a tremendous amount of controversy about the use of thimerisol as a preservative in vaccines. Although every clinical study has shown that thimerisol which contains ethyl mercury has no harmful effect on the fetus or growing children, it was removed from all childhood vaccines in 1999. Although in previous years it was the main preservative, this year’s flu vaccine does not contain any preservative at all, nor any adjuvant like squalene that was used in last year’s H1N1 vaccine. Most people confuse ethyl mercury (chemical name for thimerisol) which is a very water soluble product that does not accumulate in your system with methyl mercury, the mercury found in large fish such as tuna and swordfish. Methyl mercury can interfere with brain growth and that is why it is recommended that pregnant woman do not eat this type of fish.
The flu shot can have side-effects especially if you have a compromised immune system. In this case your body is fooled into thinking that the small amount of live virus is an invader and you may develop a fever, chills cough or other flu-like symptoms. If you take the drug prednisone in any dose, you may suffer an adverse reaction from the flu shot. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or if you suffer from Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or AIDS, the flu shot will very likely cause flu-like symptoms. If you suffer from an auto-immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus you may get a severe reaction from the vaccine.
Since the viruses are propagated in fertilized hens’ eggs, people with egg allergies cannot be vaccinated with the flu vaccine. Also a rare minority of people have a genetic predisposition to a strange reaction from the influenza vaccine which causes a temporary version of Guillaine-Barre Syndrome which is an auto-immune disorder causing different degrees of muscle paralysis.
If you are concerned about the preservatives or if you do have a compromised immune system, there is an alternative. Boiron produces a homeopathic version using the same three viruses that are in this year’s vaccine but the killed viruses are diluted hundreds of times making it virtually impossible to have a reaction to their version called Influenzium.. This product eliminates all the side-effects and will still stimulate the production of antibodies specifically designed to attack these viruses. It used to be combined with Thymulin but for the last two years this has not been necessary.
There are a number of very simple things you can do to minimize your chances of coming down with the flu. The most powerful antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables and even though many of them are imported and may cost a little more, you should eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. You should take a good multi-vitamin and some antioxidant supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, grapeseed extract or some product that contains them all. Fish oil is very important to maintain a good state of health and you must find a way to exercise in spite of the weather. Your immune system is tied to your overall health. The healthier the body, the healthier the immune system. Immune systems boosters have very little effect on an unhealthy body.
The newest form of flu prevention is taking 2000 units of Vitamin D every day. It is not a coincidence that the majority of our colds and flu occur between the months of October and February and reach a peak around Christmas and New Year. At that time the days are extremely short and study after study has shown that a lack of exposure to sunlight which produces Vitamin D in our bodies is a principal factor of causation during the winter season. In fact, 2000 units a day of Vitamin D is probably better than any flu shot.
Now that we have hand sanitizers that you can carry with you anywhere you go there is almost no excuse for not washing your hands. Hand washing stations are now commonplace not just in hospitals but at banks and many retail institutions. You must use this product every time after physical contact with other people. Just shaking hands and then rubbing your eye or nose can allow that virus to enter your body. You have a lot of protection in your mouth from your saliva so kissing is a lot safer than you think.
If you do decide to get a flu shot, get it done someplace where you will be in and out very quickly. Waiting in a physician’s office for 2 hours could mean picking up some more serious infection much worse than the flu. This year’s version has a needle that is 10 times smaller than the regular intramuscular flu shot needle and can be give subcutaneously (under the skin). It may be available in pharmacies in a form that you can take home and self-inject. Once again people undergoing chemotherapy, people taking drugs like prednisone and people with compromised immune systems must take sanitary precautions because they cannot safely take the vaccine.
Treating the Flu
It is very important to distinguish between a common cold and an Influenza infection. A cold starts very slowly with maybe a tickle in the throat, nasal congestion or a little cough and gradually progresses over a period of days while all of these symptoms become enhanced.
The onset of influenza is very sudden. Usually you wake in the morning with a fever, chills, aches and pains all over your body and possibly some diarrhea. The flu is only lethal to babies and the elderly because the rapid onset of symptoms dehydrates them so quickly that their kidneys shut down and that causes heart failure. The H1N1 flu appears to be lethal to young people with an existing health condition or a compromised immune system. Therefore the first thing to do is make sure that you rapidly hydrate your body. You make take low doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for the pain and fever.
People who subscribe to alternative medicine will stock up with a package of “Oscillococcinum” and keep it in their medicine cabinet. This is an amazing homeopathic product that can alleviate nearly all your flu symptoms in less than a day. Each dose is a tube of pellets dissolved under the tongue and must be taken immediately at the onset of flu symptoms. Once again, this product is not for the common cold, but specifically designed to alleviate symptoms of Influenza.
Because the flu can lead to pneumonia, if you are susceptible to pneumonia or you are elderly, I would strongly recommend arranging with your physician to be vaccinated against pneumonia. This vaccine is not widely advertised but it could save your life.
There really is no such thing as the “stomach flu”. If you are experiencing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and no other symptoms then you are suffering from some form of food poisoning. It is unfortunate that we attach the word “flu” to many things and then we become unable to distinguish an attack of Influenza A from an upset stomach.
The bottom line is that prevention is always the wisest choice. Eat healthy foods, exercise, take your supplements and most importantly make sure you take 2000 units of Vitamin D every day. It is very likely that the reason the H1N1 virus caused so few deaths was because it occurred in April and ran through the summer months, a time when most of the people stricken were exposed to large amounts of Vitamin D. The death toll could have been much higher had this epidemic occurred during the winter months. Another good reason to double your dose of Vitamin D this winter. Wash your hands constantly especially after touching babies and young children. The best flu shot is maintaining a state of good health.