Tag: thimersosal ethylmercury

Ah Chew- Should I get a Flu Shot?

I recently went into my doctor’s office and saw a sign for flu shot patient check-in. This made me realize that flu season is right around the corner and I will soon have to decide if I will get a flu shot or hope my immune system is strong enough to fend off the flu. After asking people if they were getting a flu shot it made me realize that not everyone gets a flu shot; some people go against the government’s recommendation to get their seasonal flu shot. It made me wonder why they were against flu shots.

I decided to do a little research on the CDC website as well as other sources to find the pros and cons on getting a flu shot as well as some statistics about the flu season and here is what I found:

    • While flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time flu activity peaks in January or later


    • During a 31-year study period, flu activity most often peaked every year in February followed by the three way tie between December, January and March.


    • Over this same 31 year period the estimated flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.


  • Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

Just how does the flu spread?

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

What does my flu shot do to my body?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called trivalent vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, this season, there are flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine as well as an additional B virus.

Pros of getting the flu shot:

    1. Getting the seasonal flu vaccinate cuts your risk of getting the flu by at least 70 percent, according to the CDC. This means have a 70 percent chance to not have any of the flu symptoms like fever, coughs, congestion and body aches.


    1. Among the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), getting vaccinated cuts the risk of dying from the flu by 80 percent. When you get vaccinated, you can help prevent death in infants, elderly and the ill who can not get their own vaccinations, or who can not produce the needed immune response to have their own immunity (by having one less person infected with influenza, rapidly making and spreading more viruses, and spreading influenza to many more people who will do the same, exposing more and more people to potential harm and death).


    1. Getting the shot won’t cause you to get the flu. It contains dead viruses, so catching the flu from the vaccine is basically impossible. The virus can incubate for up to a week, so if you were exposed to it right before you got vaccinated you might believe (incorrectly) that the shot made you sick.


    1. Experts say both flu vaccines (seasonal and H1N1) are perfectly safe. The incidence of problems from receiving vaccinations is extremely low, especially when you consider these are given every year in every nation across the world to millions upon millions of people and have, thus, been proven safe. They are proven well worth any minor risks. In fact, the head of the CDC, Thomas Frieden, MD, said that his kids will get the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available (it’s just starting to roll out across the country now). And William Schaffner, MD, chair of the department of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, already got it himself (as part of a clinical trial).


  1. Get vaccinated early enough and you’ll be protected for the whole season. You need to get vaccinated before you’re exposed to the flu, so the sooner the better.

Cons of getting the flu shot:

    1. There’s up to a 20 percent chance that you could get vaccinated and still end up with the seasonal flu. (We don’t have enough info about the H1N1 vaccine to know the odds on that one.) That’s because the vaccine contains several flu strains that scientists think are going to be circulating in the upcoming season, but there may be others going around that aren’t contained in the vaccine. A related note: If you only get the seasonal vaccine you’re still vulnerable to H1N1, and vice versa.


    1. This year you need two vaccines—for seasonal flu and H1N1—which means two separate shots (though you could choose to get two nasal sprays instead).


    1. Common side effects of the flu shot include a soreness, redness or swelling in your arm. Some people also end up feeling a bit achy or even experience a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated. And, if you opt for the nasal spray vaccine, there’s a greater chance of developing side effects like a runny nose, chills and headache. That’s because the spray contains weakened (but live) viruses, whereas the shot contains dead viruses.


    1. It’s made with thimerosal, a preservative that contains ethylmercury. While there’s no conclusive evidence that thimerosal causes any major problems, some people have expressed concern about this ingredient (especially in regards to exposing kids to it). Flu vaccines without thimersosal are available, but only in limited quantities.


    1. You can’t get a flu vaccine if you’re younger than 6 months old, allergic to eggs or have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past.


  1. There’s a very slight chance that the flu vaccine could increase your risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition that causes muscle weakness, sometimes paralysis and, in rare cases, even death. No one really knows what causes Guillain-Barré, and most experts think it’s triggered by an infection. Several studies were done to determine if the vaccine and incidence of Guillain-Barré were really linked, and most of them found no such connection. However, one study did find an association: it suggested that one person out of a million vaccinated might be a risk for Guillain-Barré.

If you are still on the fence about whether you should get a flu shot or not here are some suggestions from health officials on how to take steps in the prevention of the spread of flu and many other contagious diseases:

    • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or arm; immediately throw away used tissues.


    • Wash hands frequently throughout the day for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water.


  • Stay home from school and work as symptoms such as a fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, headache and body aches develop.

Additionally, there are healthy ways to naturally boost your immune system with or without the flu vaccine during the flu season:

    • Get quality sleep each night (7-8 hours nightly).


    • Limit the intake of highly processed sugary foods and beverages by drinking quality water, teas and homemade broths, eating fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, high quality meats, poultry and grass fed dairy products.


    • Take high quality supplements such as cod liver oil, vitamin C (1000 mg 2-3 times daily, and a well-balanced multi vitamin.


    • Get fresh air daily and as much sunlight in the winter as possible (at least 20 minutes daily).


    • Indulge in moderate exercise such as walking, biking, aerobic activity 30 minutes 4-5 times weekly.


    • Limit exposure to secondhand smoke and other household pollutants (dust, mold and chemical filled cleaning products).


  • Limit stressful situations.

Remember that the flu shot is optional precaution against the flu and everyone should assess their own health and beliefs to decide whether a flu shot could benefit them this winter. For more information on flu shots from the CDC follow (www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm).