No, I'm not talking about the kind that leave you questioning if you ever want to see a tequila bottle again. It's the time of year where every hospital, clinic, and pharmacy seems to be plastered with signs for the seasonal flu vaccine. I joined the herd on an unrelated trip to the primary care doctor's office. Alas no fun sparkling band-aid this year. At least there wasn't much soreness from the shot. This might be because I had them do the shot in my dominant arm. Overall a perfectly innocuous interaction with the healthcare system.
For this year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending against the nasal mist version of the flu vaccine, citing concerns with efficiency.1 The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) notes that the nasal vaccine can trigger asthma symptoms.3 The CDC notes that the "flu shot has a long established safety record in people with asthma.1 The AAFA also notes that an allergy to eggs is no longer considered a contradiction to getting a flu shot.3
I went for the traditional shot with dead flu virus cells that goes into your shoulder from a needle. It normally takes 30 minutes or less out of my year and is an easy way for me to avoid getting the flu. If I don't get the flu then I won't be at risk for complications from the virus. Most years I do it after work or on a weekend at my local pharmacy if I don't end up in a doctor's clinic in the fall. When I put it on the calendar, I am mindful that our immune systems take 2 weeks to develop full immunity to the strains of flu that are in the vaccine.2 Due to virus mutations we need a shot every year.3 Our immune system basically needs an annual reminder of what the virus looks like to continue to do its job and fight off the flu.2
So why do well-controlled asthmatics like me need the shot? After all, I have weathered my fair share of colds with little asthma trouble. Surely my immune system can fight off this flu virus too, right? Wrong! People with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia from the flu.1 Pneumonia and hospitalization sound like a real drag to me. In addition to the flu shot, there is a pneumonia vaccine for those at risk. While people with asthma are not at an increased risk of getting the flu, the risks are greater for all of us, even those with mild asthma or good control with medication.1 It all boils down to the preexisting inflammation in our airways being further irritated by the flu.1 Unfortunately this is not a time where I can reassure myself that it will be okay since I have good control. Perhaps this is for the best that I can't pat myself on the back and ignore the preventative measures. The annual pilgrimage to the flu shot clinic seems like a no-brainer for me. Did you get your flu shot yet? Get a super cool band-aid out of the deal? (If so I'm totally jealous!)
Have you developed a new food allergy in the last 5 years?