Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

Long time no write!  4 kiddos... at this rate I'm probably posting like once a month but we'll see... maybe it'll get better as I get my act together.  

Well, here's a topic that I'm sure will cause a lot of controversy and buzz but I feel I need to at least give my two cents as a primary care giver and mother of four.  So it's getting to be flu season and this question of whether you can get the flu from the flu shot always comes up.  Many adamantly believe they got sick from the shot in the past.  I do not doubt they got sick... but there are two reasons that are possible:   
  1. mistaking side effect symptoms of the vaccine to be flu symptoms
  2. coincidence in timing (takes 2 weeks for the shot to be in effect and probably already got exposed to the flu and would have been sick anyway)
I tell my patients this... if you are getting symptoms because of a dead virus... imagine how sick you'd be if it were alive!  Scientifically, it is impossible to be infected and get the flu from a virus that is dead.  Now if you get the flu mist (no needle kind) then you are being injected with a weakened version that has been engineered so the parts that make people sick are removed.

Here are some links to articles if you want to read in more detail:

So what are the symptoms if you get the flu?  Note... these symptoms can last typically 2-4 weeks and if you get infected with the actual virus, expect to get these symptoms.  How fast you beat it depends on your immune system

  • Fever/chills
  • Sore throat and cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Fatigue and malaise
  • Body aches and headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting and/or diarrhea (usually in children)

Compare that with the side effects most commonly associated with the flu shot.  Note... these symptoms last typically 1-2 days and not everyone gets all these symptoms
  • Soreness at site of injection
  • Redness at site of injection
  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
So I realize that not everyone will be convinced and there will always be those who hold very strongly to their beliefs.  That's fine.  To be honest, it is draining sometimes in the middle of a busy work day to go through trying to explain this logic from a scientific point of view... especially when the waiting room is full of patients, it is much simpler to just skip the remarks and leave each patient to the fate of their choosing.  However, since I believe in this logic... and I believe there is more good than harm in getting this shot, I give it to all my kids every year.  Therefore, I feel it is the right thing to do to at least offer my two cents of why I would vaccinate if it were me, my child, my mom, my grandma etc.

Of course the vaccine is not for everyone (for example if you have an egg allergy or if your immune system is particularly weak)... so you should talk to your doctor in detail about whether it is right for you.  But if you are healthy with no particular health issues, then the benefits of the vaccine, in my opinion far outweighs the potential disadvantages.