Flu: What to Do?
Have you and your family had your flu shot this year? If any of you are in a risk group, that person should be vaccinated. (Risk groups include the elderly, those in ill health and those working in a position where exposure to influenza may be increased; check with your physician for more information.) After all, it is much better to prevent a viral infection than to try to cure it. But, if you are not in one of the above groups, here is some information to help you in making a decision about whether or not to be vaccinated.
First, the influenza vaccine is grown in eggs. Therefore, it makes sense that those with an egg allergy should not be vaccinated against flu. The nurse administering the vaccine will normally ask first, but it is as well to be aware.
Second, the multi-dose influenza vaccines contain thimerosal, a highly toxic compound that contains mercury. The health risks of yearly exposure to this chemical have not been thoroughly evaluated, but a possibly link to autism is suspected. By the way, the single dose flu vaccine, although more expensive, does not contain thimerosal, so it would be a good alternative, especially for pregnant women and children.
Third, be aware that if you do get the flu, the standard treatment (Tamiflu) will only reduce the length of your illness by about 16 hours (out of ten days for the normal course of flu). In addition, it only works at all if it is administered within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Tamiflu can have psychiatric and gastrointestinal side effects in children and young adults. In other words, don’t bother to take Tamiflu if you are already sick. You’d do better with chicken soup.
The real benefit of Tamiflu appears to be in prophylactic treatment of uninfected and unvaccinated people who are known to have been exposed to the flu. Here Tamiflu and the related drugs can reduce your risk for getting flu by 70%, which in some years is better than the vaccine.
Current guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control are that everyone 6 months or older should receive a yearly influenza shot. Whether you do or not is up to you–but it is important to have the facts at hand.