The Doctor is in…. Sure, you could self-diagnose or Google image search your symptoms, but why induce paralyzing panic when Vv Magazine’s very own medical expert, The Doctor, can demystify your dumbest, scariest, grossest medical questions? He’s got the useful 21st century advice and lifestyle tips for any self-respecting hypochondriac. And, yes, he is a real doctor – not one of those phonies from an arts phD program. The Doctor specializes in infectious diseases, sexual health, and keeping it real. Send him your health questions to email@example.com.
This week, The Doctor tackles what’s been the most popular flu season-related question from Vv Magazine readers: Should I get a flu shot?
I work in a fairly big office and take public transit every morning, which is why I’ve been thinking about getting a flu shot just to take every precaution to avoid getting sick this winter. My girlfriend claims that flu shots not only don’t work, but that I’ll also get a “mini flu” after I get the shot. She also thinks they “poison your body with unnecessary toxins.” Is there any truth to her way of thinking? Are there negative side effects? And, even if there are, should I get one anyway? Thanks!
-Not-Yet-Sick & Confused, aka Tom
Based on recent TTC “activities,” you should be more worried about catching herpes on the streetcar than you should the flu. And, if your girlfriend really thinks the flu shot can give you a “mini flu,” perhaps you should try meeting women at the university library rather than, well, streetcars? Just a thought…
First things first: the flu shot cannot give you the flu because it doesn’t actually contain any live virus, despite what people like your girlfriend are wont to believe. It contains inactive virus; in other words, dead virus. If you happen to get sick shortly after getting a flu shot, that’s just bad luck or the result or a poor seat choice on the streetcar. After you get the flu shot, you’re not immediately protected. It takes about two weeks for your immune system to be fully ready to fight the flu.
The injection itself can give you some side effects like pain at the injection site and — because your immune system is activated — you can sometimes get muscle aches or fevers, but this only lasts for a day or two. You’re not actually getting the flu; your body is just reacting to the stimulation of the immune system. Although serious reactions to the flu shot can happen, they’re incredibly rare. You have a better chance of winning the lottery (my lucky numbers are 13, 22, 25, 32, 40, and 43) then having a flu shot complication.
As for whether you need the flu shot or not, certainly in Ontario, it’s a recommendation by public health because you’ll be less likely to miss work or — worse — go to work and spread the flu. The very young and the very old are especially at risk for severe complications if they get influenza (which — let your girlfriend know — is what we medical types call “the flu”), so vaccinating yourself is a good way to protect your loved ones, and it’s just good karma… not that I believe in that kind of thing, but it sounds like your girlfriend might. While she’s busy burning incense and saying Wiccan chants to ward off the flu, do your part and take the precaution by getting a shot.
Finally, there’s been a lot of hype in the media about toxins in vaccines, vaccines linked to autism, and other urban myths. Far be it from me to discourage you from getting all of your medical advice from former Playboy centerfolds and Tom Cruise, but judging from your question, you seem like a rational fella. You might want to read this out loud, slowly, to your girlfriend, in case literacy is actually the problem here.
I’m sorry if this comes off as harsh, but I’m tired of listening to people complain about the fact that we no longer die from infections at the age of 30. Vaccines have probably saved more lives than Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 1, 2, 3, and 28.
If you liked “Ask the Doctor: Should You Get A Flu Shot” by Vv Magazine’s The Doctor, be sure to read his hilarious yet sound advice for Canadians on Ebola in: Ask the Doctor: Ebola Survival Guide.