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Should I Get A Flu Shot Or Is It Just Another Poke In The Arm?

By D Ruplinger

Whether or not to get a flu shot is one of those questions that is debated every year around the same time that Halloween decorations start showing up on people's front lawns. People will discuss the pros and cons of getting the flu shot on the bus, on the subway, on the street, at work, while having lunch, and anywhere else where two or more people congregate. The debate starts to become part of news stories too. Some people think a flu shot is necessary and will do their best to make sure they receive one. Other people think it is a waste of time and money along with being a poke in the arm that they don't need.

Whether or not you get a flu shot is a personal decision but information from the Centers For Disease Control and Protection recommend that certain groups of high risk individuals receive a flu vaccination every year. Those people include:

- People who are 65 years old or older and anyone who lives in a nursing home

- People with chronic heart or lung conditions that are 6 months or older

- People with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, a compromised immune system, or anyone who needs regular medical care that is 6 months or older

- Children from 6 months to 18 years that are on long term aspirin therapy and all children who are 6 months to 23 months old

- Women who will be pregnant during the flu season

- People with a condition that has the possibility of compromising their respiratory function such as a brain injury, brain disease, spinal cord injury, seizure disorders and other nerve or muscle disorders that make it difficult for a person to breathe or swallow

My mother is in the high risk category. She's over 65 years old and is on kidney dialysis. Everyone at her dialysis center was offered a flu shot as a service so that everyone at the center was protected. The health care professionals working at the center also got flu shots.

It is also recommended that people from 50 to 64 years of age receive a flu shot even though this age group isn't considered high risk.

The flu shot is also recommended for people who routinely come in close contact with people in the high risk group, such as the health care professionals who work at my mother's dialysis center. Because I'm a caregiver for my mother it was recommended that I get a flu shot too. Although I'm neither a strong believer in getting or not getting a flu shot I got one just in case it could prevent me from getting it and passing it on to my mother.

Other members of my family have differing opinions on whether or not to get the flu shot although, unlike myself, the rest of my family seems to have a strong opinion one way or the other. Although both my mother and father receive the flu shot without fail every year and strongly believe in getting it, my aunt never gets a flu shot. She's 82 years old and is doing fine. My daughter lives in a college dorm. The college recommends the flu shot for all students living in dorms (not a bad idea in my mind because a college dorm can be a hotbed of germs or it at least seems that way when I look into some of the very messy dorm rooms) but my daughter doesn't get the flu shot and hasn't come down with the flu during the three years she's lived in the dorm. My in-laws both get a flu shot every year, but my husband's grandparents do not. And my oldest son is adamant that a person should never get a flu shot.

If you do get a flu shot the best time to receive it is from the latter part of September through the middle of November, although getting a flu shot almost any time during the season will still give a person some protection from the flu or influenza. But the flu shot doesn't give a person protection or effectiveness against the flu for about two weeks after receiving it. And in order to receive the maximum protection from the flu a person needs to get a flu shot every year.

Flu season runs from about November through April although January to February seems to be the peak time of the flu season. That's when you'll start to hear reports on the news about what parts of the United States are reporting large numbers of flu cases.

What is in a flu shot? It varies each year. In the United States the Public Health Service determines which three strains of the flu are most likely to spread and be a problem during the upcoming flu season. Purified viruses of those three strains are grown in egg cultures that are noninfectious and inactive. Those purified viruses are the flu shot or flu vaccination. The shot stimulates an immune reaction which is said to give a person up to a 70% protection from those strains of the flu.

Why do some health care professionals feel that receiving a flu shot is so important? One reason is that the flu (influenza) is very contagious. It can also be very deadly. It is the fifth leading cause of death among the elderly killing as many as 70,000 people a year.

Whether or not you receive a flu shot is something only you can decide. Consider the pros and cons and decide what is right for you.

Disclaimer: this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat illness and disease; nor is it intended as dispensation of medical advice.

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