AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

Michael P. Maddox, M.D.

 

Today I gave myself the same pre-birthday gift I’ve given me, with rare exception, since nineteen eighty-four. Today I got my flu shot. Now admittedly for the first few years I took the shot basically because I was required to as a practitioner. I mean, who in their right mind wants to get jabbed with a needle? But over time I took the shots because it was the right thing to do … for me and those around me.

You see, I’ve had the flu and I know first hand that it is no joke. Many of those I’d seen over the years who thought they had the flu actually simply had a bad cold and did not appreciate the severity of an influenza infection. More people die annually from the flu, a disease that is largely preventable with a simple vaccination that builds one’s resistance, than most people realize. (The 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic that occurred during World War One killed over three times more people than the war itself!) I soon met some resistance, however, in my practice; just not the kind I had unexpected. Ranging from reluctance to outright refusal, people resisted taking the immunization! And it was not just an issue of needles as this resistance persisted even after the introduction of a nasal spray as an alternative.

So, why the resistance? People have the mistaken notion that the flu vaccine causes the flu. It was not unusual to hear such comments as: “I took that shot and I was sick as a dog after” or “I’m not letting them experiment on me!” or “that shot gave me the flu!” Nothing could be further from the truth. The flu vaccine is not an experiment and YOU CANNOT GET THE FLU FROM A FLU VACCINE! It is impossible because THE VIRUS ADMINISTERED IS DEAD!!

When I got my first injection those many years ago I did get a reaction. About three days afterward I got a slightly scratchy throat and stuffy nose, cold-like symptoms, but oddly I didn’t feel bad. This lasted a couple of days; I have never experienced these effects since. The most common side effect is a little soreness at the injection site. An allergy to eggs or chickens are reasons to avoid the vaccine since chicken eggs are used in developing the antibodies and can cause a reaction.

There is no absolute guarantee that one will not get the flu even with vaccination because there are a variety of viruses that can produce the infection. The vaccine prevents the most likely culprits but not all. However, the illness is likely to be milder, if it occurs at all.

So, my recommendation? Take the plunge. Your body will thank you.

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