Paul W. Barada
Last week I wrote my column about how silly it was to believe the world would end Dec. 21 because a centuries-old Mayan calendar said it might. This week I’m going to write about how silly it is not to get a flu shot to help reduce the chances that you’ll get the flu this season.
Frankly, I can’t think of a good reason not to get a flu shot for most people. Getting the flu, (technically called influenza), is far, far worse than getting the injection. And yet, there are still people who are so irrationally afraid of needles that they will forgo the flu shot and take their chances on contracting influenza. If you’ve ever had a dose of the flu, I think you’ll agree that it’s far less distressing to get the shot than if it to suffer with the illness, which can lead to illnesses that are far worse, like pneumonia and which are far more deadly to the elderly than almost any other form of illness.
When I was a kid, I hated to get a vaccination. It was a scary proposition even when the vaccination was given by the kind, gentle, professional, Thelma Koors. As I got older, it became clear that being vaccinated was going to be a part of life for a long time to come. As kids, all of us in my generation went though the polio epidemic of the 1950s which required a series of vaccinations to provide immunity from that terrible crippling disease. After much soul searching, it finally occurred to me that the series of vaccinations wasn’t nearly as frightening as the possibility of contracting polio. More importantly, I overcame my fear of being vaccinated by simply rolling up my sleeve and looking the other way when it came time for the inoculation.
Do vaccinations hurt? Well, it depends on who’s giving them. Most of the nurses, doctors, and other health practitioners I know are so skilled at giving injections that 99 percent of the time I don’t even feel the injection! The remaining 1 percent of the time, it wouldn’t even be fair to say the injection “hurt.” As a matter of fact, an injection is far less uncomfortable than a bee sting. So, for those of you who don’t like the idea of needles or injections, suck it up and get a flu shot. The little pin prick is nothing, it you feel anything at all, compared to a miserable bout of influenza.
Here is some solid advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that everyone should follow: “As always, get a flu vaccine every year. Getting vaccinated is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. Vaccination efforts should continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating. Also, you can help stop the spread of influenza and other diseases by doing the following things: “If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands regularly. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill.”
If you’re not familiar with the symptoms that indicate you might be getting the flue, here’s what the CDC advises: “Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever* or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness); some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.”
(*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
If you need any more convincing to get a flu shot, here are a few possible flu complications, according to the CDC: “Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu…”
Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
How serious should we consider our chances of getting the flu? Of course, it depends on the season; some flu seasons are worse then others. Again quoting from the CDC: “One study found that during the 1990s, flu-related deaths in the United States ranged from an estimated 17,000 during the mildest season to 52,000 during the most severe season…” Those numbers sound pretty serious to me!
Now, for those folks who are simply trusting to luck or a history of good health to avoid getting this year’s version of the flu, don’t be foolish. Whether you go to your doctor or any other reputable location providing flu shots, get the shot! Even if you still get the flu, it will be far less severe having been vaccinated against it. There’s an old saying that sometimes the cure is worse than the illness but, in this case, getting a flu shot is nothing compared to coming down with the flu!
That’s -30- for this week.