by Lydia Seaman & Maddie Katz
As the new year rolls in, it is essential to take care of yourself and those around you. In doing that, it is important to keep in mind the dangers of the flu.
Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets from people with the flu when they sneeze or talk.
In the United States, “flu season” can begin as early as October and last as late as May, according to cdc.gov.
According to kidshealth.org, It affects all age groups, though children usually get the illness more often than adults. The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms usually are more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. The flu can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications, especially in infants, senior citizens and people with long-term health problems.
Said Pharmacist and Immunizer Mr. Jim Schiffer:“The formula for each season’s Flu vaccine is prepared months in advance with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control by analyzing the various different strains of potential flu bugs that are circulating throughout the world. Then a formula of which strains have the highest probability of affecting the United States is prepared for the upcoming flu season. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they do not.”
Why should you get vaccinated?
The flu is a disease that must be taken seriously as it can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. An annual seasonal flu vaccine can greatly reduce the risk of getting the flu.
According to cdc.gov, about 6.6 million people did not get the illness during the 2012-2013 flu season due to the flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control began recording flu-related pediatric deaths in 2004, reporting that more than 80 percent of these deaths occurred in children who were eligible for vaccination, but were not fully vaccinated against the flu.
Said WHS Nurse Ms. Carole Stavitski, “With the knowledge and technology in medical science today, why would anyone deliberately choose to forgo a flu vaccine and be at risk for contracting a nasty virus?”
When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten time of the illness. They can also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.
There are two types of flu vaccines. One is the inactivated flu vaccine, which does not contain any live flu virus. It is given by injection with a needle, more commonly known as the flu shot. The second is a nasal spray vaccine, which protects against the flu without having to get a shot. The nasal spray consists of a low dose of live, but weakened, flu virus. The spray does not cause the flu, but it does prompt an immune response in your nose and airways, as well as throughout your body, according to mayoclinic.com.
Though many believe that these antiviral drugs cause the flu this is not necessarily true. Some people do experience mild flu-like symptoms after vaccination, but this is simply a reaction to the vaccine. For most the vaccination takes two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body that provide protection against the flu, according to cdc.gov.
It is important to get the flu vaccination annually. According to cdc.gov, the flu viruses are constantly changing, the flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses research indicates may be most common during the upcoming flu season. Additionally, annual vaccination is necessary because personal immune protection from the vaccine declines over time.
According to Health Teacher Ms. Susan Kolesar, it is important for people who are at greater risk of developing respiratory problems to get the flu shot. Additionally, young children, especially those in childcare environments, those with asthma, and the elderly should get the flu shot.
Though it is December it is not too late to get vaccinated. According to cdc.gov, flu season typically peaks in February and can last through May. The flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. To get the flu shot or nasal spray at pharmacies, drug stores or contact your doctor.
Alternatives to the flu shot
Though the flu shot is meant to protect those who may be at risk of intercepting the flu during the cold months of winter, not all agree that the flu shot is the best preventative. Though it has been confirmed by cdc.gov that the flu shot cannot cause the flu, it is still plausible to face flu-like symptoms shortly after the vaccine, according to Schiffer. Those who would prefer not to risk the side effects can prevent the flu in a variety of other ways.
Many WHS students have actually never received a flu shot nor have they suffered from the common flu. Senior Anna Tanji shared that after many years of going without the flu shot, she failed to notice a difference in her health compared to those that receive the injection. She has therefore chosen a more holistic approach of eating healthy, sleeping and protecting herself from those who suffer rather than getting vaccinated.
There are a number of doctors that actually advise not to get the flu shot. Around 70% of the doctors that do advise to get the flu shot and administer them choose not to get it for themselves, according to mercola.com. There are just as many side effects that come with getting the flu shot as that come without getting it. Instead it has been suggested to replace the injection with an increased intake of vitamin D, according to mercola.com.
Often times flu shots actually cause so many allergic reactions that it is more manageable to suffer from the flu for about a week than be bellowed down by the many reactions that one could face. Some of the reactions include serum sickness (fever, hives, itching, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes and arms), angioedema (swelling of the skin) and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is the most severe one and usually results in cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, anxiety, fainting, slurred speech etc., according to livestrong.com. Also, those who are allergic to eggs are advised away from getting the flu shot.
According to Schiffer there is no real reason to get the flu shot unless one is very elderly or very young. It is very rare to encounter the flu and even with the vaccine a person is still at a risk for the flu even if inoculated. However, to prevent escalated flu symptoms, there are oral medications that can be taken called Tamiflu and Relenza directly after the signs have become persistent.
Due to the many negatives that trail along with getting a flu shot, it may just be better and stay away from it. The options are endless of how to stay healthy all winter long, but taking the flu shot off the list can be more effective according to a number of doctors. Ways to stay healthy include eating right, exercising and wearing the appropriate clothing for the weather. It is also important to wash one’s hands on a regular basis and stay away from those who are sick. By staying healthy, the risks of the flu can be prevented as well as the need for the flu shot.