3 Steps to Outsmarting the Flu

By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center Director, Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital

Posted on | By David L. Katz MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP

'Tis the season, as the saying goes, for holiday cheer. But your holidays will be a whole lot cheerier if you don’t share them with influenza! So ‘tis the season for flu prevention, too. And on that topic, I’ve got something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue that will help you outsmart the flu this year. Without further ado:

Something Old: Get Vaccinated

Get vaccinated. That really is the best tried-and-true advice there is for preventing influenza. But the road to that conclusion runs anything but straight. Let’s travel it together.

Among the roadblocks, there are, for starters, the numerous conspiracy theorists – highly loquacious on the Internet – who contend not only that flu vaccination is overtly dangerous, but that there is a systematic effort to delude the public about those dangers. Even readers who are not entirely convinced that the CDC is genocidal in its recommendation that everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated are given pause by such allegations.

One good reason for this hesitation is that for a vaccine to do you any good, you need to get it while feeling fine. This is quite different from, say, an operation that is much more dangerous but easily justified by an obviously broken limb, plugged-up gall bladder, or occluded arteries. It can be hard to talk yourself into rolling up your sleeve and getting jabbed with a needle while feeling healthy (even if you are not particularly worried about a government conspiracy).

The truth, though, is that the influenza vaccine is many, many times safer than the flu itself. That does not mean the flu is a plague, nor that the vaccine is perfectly safe. Nothing in medicine and little in life is perfectly safe. Harm from the flu vaccine is possible, but a highly remote risk. For what it may be worth to make this personal, I readily accept that “risk” every year – for myself, my wife and my children. I put the arms of my loved ones where my mouth is on this topic.

Article written by David L. Katz MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP
Director, Yale University Prevention Research CenterDirector, Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital