With the weather turning unseasonably colder in northern California the flu season is in full swing. The annual influenza is taking its annual toll on the population and with the addition of the Swine flu that has accounted for a few deaths locally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local county health agencies have begun an advertising campaign geared toward motivating the masses to get the flu vaccine.
This year, that campaign has been even more urgent due to outbreaks of the H1N1″swine flu” virus, which have spread from one country to the next in the past six months or so. Local H1N1 vaccine centers have been set up around the Sacramento County making the new Swine Flu vaccine available to most anyone that wants it.
Should you get yourself and your children vaccinated against the flu? Just like all vaccines and medications, there are potential side effects associated with the flu shot. Minor side effects can include but are not limited to soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever and other aches and pains. More severe, life-threatening complications have proven to be rare, but the danger still exists that someone can suffer severe effects from this alleged beneficial vaccine.
The most common dangerous side effect is an allergic reaction. Since the vaccine is grown in eggs, it is more dangerous for those who have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines in the past. These reactions can include breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, and a fast heartbeat or dizziness.
The most serious side effect is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). This is a disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. While most people eventually recover, some have permanent nerve damage and 5 percent to 6 percent of those who develop GBS will die. The CDC would remind you that only six of every 1 million people injected with the flu shot will develop GBS. That’s small comfort if you’re one of the six, of course.
The CDC talks about the benefits of being vaccinated, but are those benefits backed up with the facts? The flu vaccine is always changing because the flu strains change from one year to the next. (The swine flu is one such variation.) The manufacturers of the vaccine take a shot in the dark and hope they’ll hit the right strain each year, but the fact is the flu shot is only 70 percent to 90 percent effective.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocate simple health habits to prevent the spread of illnesses like the flu. Taking these steps can help people avoid the flu without having to get a flu shot in the first place:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough/sneeze; throw the used tissue away.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water as soon as possible after coughing or sneezing.
- Keep yourself and any babies and children in your care away from people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth if you in close contact with people who are sick or have been sick.
Consider these suggestions, along with the above information regarding risks vs. benefits, before getting a flu shot this year after all, it’s your health and the health of your children at stake.