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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Have you had your flu vaccine yet?

I've written about flu vaccines before.  And I'm going to do it again.

Because of the nature of my work, I subscribe to various blogs and news alerts related to natural health.  Lots of what I've been seeing recently has been anti-vaccine.  Most dissenting voices claim that vaccines are not as effective at preventing disease as most people believe they are.
Dr John Briffa gives an excellent account of the science here.

But even without analysing the data and scientific studies, it seems very convenient to me that the drug companies who produce these vaccines get to sell a whole new batch every single year.  This is of course because the flu virus mutates so regularly, and so the new vaccine each year is designed to combat the new mutations.  Personally I think that biology doesn't work like this; every summer does a new batch of viruses suddenly appear, or are the viruses continually changing and mutating as they travel from person to person, from country to country?  I think it's something closer to the latter.

I understand that many people are very happy to be vaccinated against flu because it gives them some peace of mind and extra protection, but it's not something that I'll be doing.  The best way to protect yourself is to look after yourself as best you can - good food, good sleep, fresh air and relaxation.  I am also a huge proponent of Vitamin C when it comes to colds and flu.

But if you do find yourself struck down with influenza, my advice is to take to your bed straight away.  So often I hear of people soldiering on, going to work dosed up on Lemsip or paracetamol.  In my opinion that is not the best way to treat your body and promote recovery.  There's a lot to be said for good old fashioned nursing techniques; plenty of liquids, plenty of rest, plenty of warmth, plenty of sleep.


Anonymous said...

Melanie - Would your advice on flu jabs be the same for pregnant women?

To jab or not to jab was a big dilemma for me as I also suffer from ME. But, being pregnant tipped me towards having it this year, as I know that the risks when pregnant much are higher even for 100% healthy women (especially towards the end of pregnancy, where I'll be in peak flu season.)

I have to say it made me really really ill - I was in bed for days after and only now - after 3wks am getting back to where I was before.

I'd be interested to hear what you'd have done in my shoes?

Claire said...

Instead of battling to find time between work and school run to have a flu vaccine, I think I'll mix up the honey and lemon right now! An early night and possibly a duvet day tomorrow sounds much more appealing. Thanks Mel, its good to hear someone giving support for NOT soldiering on.

Melanie Flower said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment.

Firstly, I have to say that I am not advising people not to have the flu jab – your doctor is the only person who can do that. I’m presenting my opinion with just one study to support that opinion. There is probably a whole load of evidence to say that the flu jab is effective which I have not included. This makes it a very confusing issue, and I totally understand the dilemma you must have been in.

What would I have done in your shoes? Well, I’ve never been pregnant so I can’t truly understand what it’s like to be in your situation. I can’t definitely say that I wouldn’t have had the jab, because I know that being pregnant brings with it a totally new perspective when it comes to health. I know that I would definitely do much more research into the whole issue before coming to a final conclusion. I would have to feel entirely comfortable with my decision, based on the information available to me at the time.

Melanie Flower said...

Thanks Claire. I am NEVER one to advise soldiering on!

Katariina Järvinen said...

Good article as always, Melanie. I would probably wholeheartedly agree with you on this if it wasn't for the experience I had in the beginning of this year: I had a horrid flu for six (!) weeks. I did the right thing and rested first - really rested for a few days. Didn't get any better. Then HAD to do some work... but was so struck by the flu that couldn't work for more than a couple of hours a day, and even then it meant I had to stay the following day in bed, all day. I really really really don't want to experience that again (self employed = no sick pay), so I'm definitely going to get a flu jab this year! Thank you for reminding me!

Melanie Flower said...

Hello Katariina.

Thanks for providing a really useful comment for the other side of the argument!

Katariina Järvinen said...

Yes, well - of course there's no guarantee that it will work, but I hope that it will give me a better chance to avoid getting a flu this winter. After my experience I want to take every precaution I can, really.

Katariina Järvinen said...

Hi Melanie, I'm coming back to let you know that I have had a flu for a week now... despite the flu vaccine I took! So, I'm not going to get a flu vaccine next year - instead, I'm going to start taking vitamin D daily from now on. My mother and sister swear by it, and there's a lot of talk about it being good against many kinds of infectious illnesses, including the common cold and flu. I'm currently searching for 20 mcg vitamin D supplement tablets in the UK... so I don't have to ask my relatives to send me them from Finland! The RDA is currently 5 mcg in the UK, but in Finland, many doctors recommend 20-30 mcg, apparently. Here's a good video on the subject I came across on my search: What are your thoughts on this?

Melanie Flower said...

Thanks for the update Katariina, and I'm really sorry to hear you're unwell :-(

I have seen lots of research about Vitamin D, and it all makes perfect sense to me. The link you sent through is very interesting too. Modern humans just don't get outside as much as we did in the past, and therefore we are getting low in Vitamin D. We didn't evolve to spend our daylight hours sitting in an office....

I usually recommend a liquid Vitamin D supplement - I'll email you the details.

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