Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot

From the comments:
Tell me, really, if it's worth getting the shot. I've never gotten one and I just hit 60.

I work at home, a telecommuter, but I do get out at least once a day. Previously when I worked out of an office, the others would get a shot and still get the flu. When the flu started its rounds, I worked from home.

Now I have gotten the flu---maybe three times in the last decade, but never [with] the frequency [of] my flu-shot co-workers.

So tell my again, why I should get the shot?
Here's the deal: Influenza is spread:
...from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
What this means, technically, is that if you have no contact with people during the entire time the influenza virus is in the community then no, you do not need to get a flu shot because you will never get the flu. The problem, of course, is that "little contact" is not the same as "no contact." In general, your chances of getting the flu ("chances" = statistically) are proportionate to the number of people with whom you come in contact. Thus, it makes perfect sense that your office co-workers would be more likely to contract the flu than you, the opportunistic telecommuter, regardless of immunization status.

What the flu shot does is reduce (note: not eliminate) your chances of getting sick with the flu if you are exposed to one of the strains in the vaccine. That's all. Bottom line is that it's a decision you have the right to make for yourself, given the above information, your own personal estimation of your risk for influenza (which most people tend to underestimate) and your tolerance for that risk.

Here's what I tell my patients:
I recommend the flu shot for anyone who doesn't want to get the flu.


At Fri Oct 31, 03:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, generally having the flu shot means that if you get it that winter, it will be less severe as well.

At Sat Nov 01, 07:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lest we forget...the flu is bloody sodding awful.

I want to strange people who get a sniffle (A COLD fercryingoutloud) and then complain that the flu shot didn't work.

It. Is. Not. The. Same.

I feel better (and vaccinated!) now....


At Sat Nov 01, 07:27:00 AM, Blogger Geohde said...


not strange!

At Mon Nov 03, 05:22:00 AM, Blogger denverdoc said...

And I recommend the flu shot to anyone who doesn't want to bring the flu home to spouse, kids, granny, or the nanny (if she gets sick, ain't nobody working).

I've given up arguing with those who say "I always get the flu when I get a flu shot" or "I never get the flu." Hats off to you for giving the shots. We send everyone who can walk sans walker to the grocery store; saves on MA salary.

At Mon Nov 03, 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Crucis said...

Thank you for replying to my comment. (I see you edited/corrected by typos too. Tnx). I believe I'll follow my usual practice and skip the flu shot this year.

Yes, I recognize the risk. Your reply reinforced my opinion of the risk of getting the flu. I appreciate the response.

I'd asked my GP the same question and received a canned response. I think I'll look for another primary physician. A well reasoned answer is always better than a programmed response out of the latest medical flyer.

captcha: andanish
How'd they know what I had for breakfast?

At Thu Nov 06, 11:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only had the flu twice in my adult life, it was truly horrid. It didn't kill me, just made me wish I was dead. I spent 2 days the one time sleeping on the nice cool tile floor of my bathroom. Anything that can reduce the chances of me getting that again, I'm all over it. Since then I've added a wife and 2.5 children to the equation. They are pathways from which I could easily contract it, and people to whom I dont want to be responsible for spreading it too.

This year we all got the flumist thing, kids included. Not getting it is stupid. Driving to the office to get the shot carries higher risk than the shot itself and you dont have to spend a week or 2 missing work and risk killing your family.

I think thats a good thing all around.

At Wed Nov 12, 03:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never gotten the shot. I had the flu once when I was a child and have never had anything even close to it sense. This also appears to be a family trait since the same thing has happened to every member of my family: Sick once as a kid, never took the shots, and never sick again.

Thank God for good genes.


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