The CDC recently announced that every child from six months to 18 years should get a flu shot; they have posted a Web seminar to encourage “mommy bloggers” to spread the word and not the flu. Families Fighting Flu created a YouTube video in an effort to influence families to vaccinate their children against the flu. And inexpensive flu shots are now available at local drugstores across the country.
We now know, however, that vaccines are not 100% effective or 100% safe. While vaccination rates are a public health measure advocated by the CDC, there are many parents who prefer to make an informed decision about whether or not to give the flu vaccination to their children. Thanks to the growing number and type of vaccines, there are more children at potential risk for the side effects of vaccines.
How do you know you have the flu? Even physicians are sometimes unable to pinpoint a diagnosis of influenza. Symptoms typically include:
- Pain when you move your eyes;
- Fatigue, a general feeling of sickness (malaise), and loss of appetite;
- A dry cough, runny nose, and dry or sore throat (you may not notice these during the first few days of the illness when other symptoms are more severe, but as your fever goes away, these symptoms may become more evident);
- Fever of 100 to 104 degrees, which can reach 106 degrees when symptoms first develop. Fever is usually continuous, but it may come and go. Fever may be lower in older adults than in children and younger adults. When fever is high, other symptoms usually are more severe;
- Body aches and muscle pain (often severe), commonly in the back, arms, or legs.
Influenza usually does not cause symptoms in the stomach or intestines, such as vomiting and diarrhea. And there are other conditions that have symptoms similar to the flu—including the common cold, certain bacterial infections, and other viral conditions including infectious mono.
In most cases, the flu is self-limiting. While the death toll is alarming (36,000 people perish every year from influenza, and 100 of them are children), there is growing and widespread concern about the effectiveness of the vaccine to prevent the flu in elderly patients. Moreover, Dr. Kristine Severyn says the medical literature paints an illuminating picture of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in the most vulnerable population, the elderly. And a new study at Yale University will specifically study the flu vaccines and their effectiveness in children.
But we can protect ourselves from the flu much better than we done. Handwashing and good hygiene, staying home when you have a contagious virus, and minimizing lifestyle choices that promote “being sick all the time” such as a high-sugar diet, a diet rich in refined and processed foods, little physical activity, and lots of stress, can reduce your risk of contracting the flu.
There is also a link between vitamin D deficiency and the incidence of the flu, according to Harvard researchers. Vitamin D is produced in our bodies by the sun; but so many people now avoid sun exposure to reduce the incidence of skin cancer that we have a nationwide vitamin D deficiency. And that deficiency is linked to heart disease, bone thinning, the flu, and even multiple sclerosis.
As with any nutrient, before you decide to increase your vitamin D intake, you should find out where you stand currently. A simple blood test, the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, can tell you and your doctor your current vitamin D levels. Click here to find a doctor in your area who is knowledgeable in nutritional medicine.
Educate yourself about the controversy over mandatory vaccinations. It is important to look at the benefits as well as the risks of flu vaccines—there is no one-size-fits-all answer for you, your children, or your senior loved ones.