Don’t Let The Flu Bug You This Winter
Christine Cheng & Frederick Cheng (Registered Pharmacists)
As we age, the ability of our immune systems to combat infection weakens. This means that seniors are more susceptible to getting the flu and this is nothing to shrug off, given that 90% of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people over the age of 65. A flu infection could also lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, which may be fatal. There is absolutely no doubt that the best defence against the flu is an annual flu shot. The local flu vaccine consists of remnants of the flu virus that can trigger your immunity to make biochemical troops in preparation for exposure to an actual flu viral attack. This way, the body can respond much more quickly upon exposure and thus halt the flu in its tracks ASAP.
If the flu shot sounds so amazing, why doesn’t everyone just get one? Good question… Any healthy individual over 65 is considered at high risk and should go get a flu shot. It is easily accessible at Cloverdale Pharmasave, where trained and certified pharmacists can provide the vaccination via drop-in or by appointment. There are a few misconceptions out there, though. Yes, some preparations contain a mercury-derivative called “thimerosal” used as a preservative. However, thimerosal’s metabolite, “ethyl-mercury” is considered by government agency data to be generally safer than “methyl-mercury”. (Methyl-mercury is the “mercury” that people speak of when they refer to heavy-metal poisoning.) Also, it is untrue that you will get sick or contract the flu from a vaccine; the latter is impossible since there are no active flu viruses in a proper vaccine. Some people fear a link between repeated vaccinations and dementia or heart disease, but there is no solid data to support this.
Overall good health habits can really help prevent the flu, too. This can be as simple as making sure you wash your hands often (especially before meals), avoiding touching your eyes, nose, mouth, covering your sneeze with a tissue, or avoiding crowds and close contact with sick people. Getting enough rest on a regular basis and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine will be of additional benefit. It is also recommended that you refrain from going out until 24 hours after disappearance of a fever (except for going to seek medical attention or for necessities).
There is good and bad news if you dread the traditional needle. There is a nasal flu vaccine called “Flumist”, which is similar in efficacy to the traditional vaccine, but is not recommended for people over 50 years of age. “Intanza” is an “intradermal” vaccine designed to work with a much smaller needle to deposit a smaller volume (0.1mL vs traditional 0.5mL) of the vaccine into your skin (rather than the muscle). “Intanza 15µg” is the version that is safe for those 60+ years of age, and offers similar efficacy as the traditional flu vaccine.
Furthermore, many people supplement with homeopathic and natural remedies around the time of their flu shots because they can help minimize the side-effects of a vaccine and/or boost their effectiveness. Sulphur, Thymuline 9CH, Influenzinum (current strains), and Esberitox are all used frequently and supplementation should be discussed with a health professional that is knowledgeable in the area. Contrary to what some may think, over-the-counter “flu” preparations such as “Tylenol Cold and Flu” are useless in preventing a flu infection; they are only potentially useful in relieving associated symptoms.
As with so many decisions, it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks. In many cases, the benefits of getting an annual flu shot outweigh the risks. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and become familiar with the symptoms of the flu and to help assess whether a flu vaccine is the smart choice for you this year.
Christine and Fred Cheng are a sister-brother pharmacist team at their unique family-owned and operated Pharmasave in Cloverdale, BC. They specialize in natural remedies and compounding for both human and veterinarian use. They would love to hear from you! Contact them HERE.