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The Flu Vaccine: Separating Fact and Fiction

Posted: 01/07/2014 11:31 am

Written by Leslie Kennedy for BabyPost.com

Many parents waver on getting the flu shot for their children. Many parents waver on getting it for themselves. The arguments against it are the same for many of the optional vaccines (i.e. vaccines that are not on the provincially mandated schedule).

People fear their children's bodies are already overloaded with vaccines and they don't want to add more if they don't have to. They also say, as with the chicken pox vaccine that was optional in Ontario until just recently, 'it's just the flu.'

Full disclosure, I have said these very things.

But I was wrong.

Related: Teething, Colds and Sleep Regressions

Contrary to fear mongers and naysayers, vaccines work, and vaccines are necessary. And vaccines are not given unless they are tested to be safe and tested to be effective.

The old stand-by anti-vax stance that people have become seriously sick from vaccines neglect to acknowledge everything can be an allergen. There are people who are allergic grass, peanuts, dust, chicken etc. etc. etc., and yes, vaccines. It doesn't mean than grass is bad or peanuts are bad or dust or chickens are bad. None of those things are evil. Neither are vaccines.

In fact, in a recent discussion held by Dr. Arlene King, the rate of success of vaccines is astounding, and undeniable.

Three important things of note:
1. In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives than any other health intervention. Consider this: 100 years ago, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada, they now cause less than 5 per cent of all deaths - all thanks to immunization.

2. Data from the 2011-2012 flu season shows that in Ontario, almost half of all influenza cases reported occurred in those over 65 and in children under the age of 5.

3. The greatest number of reported cases of influenza in children are found among those aged 1-4 years. To paraphrase: Vaccines save a lot of lives, and the most vulnerable are our elderly and our children.

Cold and Flu: What's the difference?
Perhaps it's necessary to decipher between a cold and the flu. I have heard the term 'flu' thrown around as an ailment more times than I can count but in reality, I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know who have ever actually really suffered from Influenza.

According to the Mayo Clinic: "Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system -- your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include: Young children, older adults, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and people who have chronic illnesses. Your best defense against influenza is to receive an annual vaccination."

Flu Shot Myths
The myths about the flu shot are many, and one of the most common I've heard (and admittedly believed in the past) is that the shot itself gives you the flu. Not so and not possible, King explains. "The publicly funded influenza vaccine does not contain any ingredients that would cause the flu and therefore the shot cannot give anybody the flu," she said.

Unlike serious colds, true influenza can and has been deadly. In fact, King explained that in the 2012/13 influenza season, there were seven deaths among children under the age of five with confirmed influenza.

That is seven deaths too many; seven deaths that could have been prevented.

There are facts about vaccines that prove them to be worthwhile and a plethora of myths constantly circulating to suggest otherwise.

Ultimately the decision to get a flu shot is entirely a personal one. This isn't about standing on a soap box preaching why it's necessary to get. But like all things, especially when related to vaccines, the choice to do it or not to do it should always be based on truth, on facts, and on science. And not on myths that scare people away.

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  • Temperature

    Feeling feverish or having a fever of 100°F or higher can be an indicator for the flu or H1N1 virus, though not everyone with the flu will get a fever. Fevers are unlikely with a common cold.

  • Body Aches

    Feeling achy all over or getting a headache is another symptom of the flu or H1N1, and not generally associated with getting a cold. This tends to show as more general aches, as opposed to those confined to one area.

  • Nausea, Vomiting Or Diarrhea

    Nausea is the most symptom of the flu, and less likely to occur with a cold. However, if you're vomiting continuously, this can indicate a more severe strain of the flu, and you should seek medical help.

  • Sore Throat

    A sore throat is usually the first indicator of the beginning of illness, whether it's a cold, the flu or worse.

  • Cough

    Coughing occurs when one has a cold or the flu, though if it worsens, that can indicate a more severe strain, like H1N1.

  • Fatigue

    An intense feeling of exhaustion, like not being able to get out of bed, is a sign that you have the flu or H1N1. This does not usually occur with a cold.

  • Chills

    Chills can occur as a result of many kinds of bacterial and viral illnesses, including colds, the flu and H1N1.

  • Runny Nose

    Though a runny nose is most closely associated with a cold, it can also be part of having the flu or H1N1. Be sure to have plenty of tissues on hand to keep germs from spreading.

  • Dizziness

    Dizziness is not a normal symptom for a cold or flu, and should be treated with seriousness.

  • Dehydration

    Dehydration is a serious risk when you're ill, either because you feel too sick to drink or eat, or you've been vomiting and/or having diarrhea. Being dehydrated can indicate H1N1, and you should seek medical attention.

  • Pain In Stomach Or Chest

    Feeling pains in your stomach or chest while or immediately after you have the flu can indicate a serious complication, like pneumonia. Seek medical help immediately.

  • Blue, Purple Or Grey Lips

    Discoloured lips can indicate a lung infection, which poses a serious health risk. Be sure to seek medical attention immediately.

  • NEXT: 10 ways to help protect you from the flu

  • Make Yourself A DIY Germ Barrier

    To help keep the germs at bay, use a cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to the inside of your nostrils. Voila! You've got yourself an enhanced germ barrier. Our <a href="http://www.caring.com/articles/7-ways-to-avoid-getting-sick-when-you-fly" target="_hplink">noses are often soft spots for bacteria and viruses and a small layer of jelly can act as a protective barrier. </a>

  • Sanitize

    Keep an all-natural hand sanitizer that promises to kill 99.9 per cent of germs in your pocket or purse at all times.

  • Protect The Kids

    Kids are primary germ carriers and will inevitably fall ill this season. To prevent yourself from getting sick, make sure your children are also protected either with a flu shot or medication.

  • Get Fresh With Garlic

    Bacteria love warm, humid environments. If what you've got now is a bacterial infection, garlic is a powerful, all-natural antibiotic solution. Of course we're not telling you to eat a raw clove straight — instead try adding garlic to soups, salads or your favourite pasta.

  • Reach For Probiotics

    A happy gut means a healthy immune system. Reach for probiotic supplements or yogurt. Probiotics can <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1281141/Probiotics-good-digestion-But-combat-flu-allergies-bad-breath.html" target="_blank">boost the immune system and increase resistance to the cold and flu by producing antibiotics.</a>

  • Get Some Zzzs

    Lack of sleep is proven to contribute to an unhealthy immune system. To ensure you have a congestion-free sleep, whether you're sick or not, use a nasal strip to help open your airways.

  • Sneeze In The Sleeve

    Much like hand washing, this is one of the simplest ways to help prevent the spread of germs.

  • Shower Your Nose

    Irrigate your nasal cavity with a neti-pot. It will flush out the viruses and bacteria reducing chances of impending infections.

  • Don't Forget The D

    When it comes to the flu, it’s not all about Vitamin C, Vitamin D is just as important. Since we may not get as many hours of sunshine as we do in the summertime, taking vitamin D supplements during the winter can help boost immunity and protect our bodies from catching a cold.

  • Flower Power

    Research suggests the use of a properly formulated Echinacea means fewer colds, reduced duration of cold symptoms, and less reliance on synthetic pain relievers.


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