It’s flu shot season, and as always, this controversial topic rears it’s ugly head.  I am a firm believer in vaccines.  They are proven to work; many of the disease that were devastating to various bygone eras have now largely been eradicated, and that’s good enough for me.  However, I also recognize that the decision to get a vaccine or not, is a very personal one.

A couple of years ago, at the beginning of September (which is generally early for flu season), I was sitting in my living room minding my own business when my son brought a friend home.

His friend coughed and sputtered her way into my home, and I didn’t want to ask her to leave, but I could feel the tension rise up in me as I thought, “why are you even out?”, “shouldn’t you be at home resting?” … “go home, I don’t want to catch what you’ve got!”  “I mean, I know my son is hot, but seriously?”

Oh, well, I thought, I’ll just wash my hands a million times and hope for the best … but  the best didn’t happen.  Within 24 hours I was coughing so hard my chest hurt.

I remember wondering if I had the flu or just a cold.  I’ve always wondered about the difference between the two because the symptoms are somewhat similar – cough, stuffy nose, sore throat; I’m sure anyone who has survived on the planet for any length of time is familiar.

It turns out that they are almost the same, except for two main differences.  The flu is more severe than a cold, and also, as was the case with me two years ago, flu symptoms come on very suddenly and are severe right from the outset.  Ah ha … I see.

Of course, you can’t blame the person who you caught it from, because it really isn’t their fault.  They didn’t want it either!  But boy oh boy, I was hopping mad for two weeks, on top of coughing up a lung every 5 minutes.

But, here’s the thing, I didn’t get fully better for 2 weeks.  For 3 weeks.  For 4 weeks. Or even for 5 weeks.  I was back at work after a week or so, but I was not myself.  I was extremely fatigued and felt like I was barely getting by.  For about 6 weeks.

After week 4, I went to the doc to find out if I had developed something bacterial in the aftermath, as can sometimes happen.  Nope.  The doctor just told me it was because I am … old … er … older, and that I had to expect that it would now take me longer to fight a flu than it had in my 20s or even 30s.  Ah ha … I see.

And here’s another thing.  The flu taking 6 weeks of your life, to fatigue and generally feeling unwell, is the least of your worries. Complications of the flu can be severe, and even cause death.

An annual flu shot is recommended for young children, adults over 65, anyone with a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, a heart disorder, a kidney disorder, and many others.  The list is actually quite long, and it even includes obesity.

Here’s what the Centre For Disease Control has to say:  The Flu Can Be Really, Really Bad – Click Here.

Of course, there is a host of people who should NOT get a flu shot, including:

  • children under 6 months old
  • anyone who has had a severe reaction to a vaccine in the past
  • anyone who is allergic to eggs
  • anyone who has Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a chronic disorder)
  • a pregnant woman (please note, pregnant woman fall on the do list and on the don’t list in some articles, so this should be discussed with a doctor)

Also, a flu shot cannot be administered to anyone who is currently experiencing any kind of acute illness.  Wait till you’re better if you’re fighting any kind of virus.

It is getting more and more convenient to get a flu shot.  Doctors are now offering special clinic times, employers are arranging special flu shot sessions for their employees, and many pharmacies are offering flu shots for free.

As I said above, it is a very personal decision as to whether to get an annual flu shot, and certainly, there are many people who oppose vaccines.  But for me, I’m in, and probably will be as long as flu shots are available.