It’s that time of year again. The time of year where I keep seeing posts on MS social media sites asking, “should I get a flu shot?”
In my honest opinion, yes, definitely! There are certainly different opinions about this, but I think that my opinion is the same as that of nearly any doctor that you’ll ask. For example, here’s a what a couple of doctors have to say in a U.S. News and World Report article that’s specifically about MS and the flu:
Dr. Robert Shin, director of the Georgetown Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center: “The flu infection may stimulate the immune system, which may in turn trigger an MS attack.” Note that Shin says the flu, not the flu shot, is what should worry you. He says that getting the flu, or any illness, raises that chance that you’ll have a relapse or a worsening of your symptoms.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security: “When you see flu outbreaks, you see MS relapses.”
If you just think about what happens to your body in hot weather, or when you have a fever, then the flu-MS connection should be clear.
Docs sat the flu shot doesn’t give you the flu
Are you worried that getting a flu shot can give you the flu, or make you sick with something else? Doctors say don’t be. The flu shot uses a killed virus to protect you against the flu. So it’s highly unlikely that the vaccine will give you the flu. In fact, Dr. Shin says “infection really is impossible.”
On the other hand, the nasal flu vaccine is created from a live virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against anyone using the nasal vaccine, because there are concerns about its effectiveness.
Since the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, it’s possible that some people who’ve had a shot will still get the flu. There have also been some years where the vaccine hasn’t been a good match for the strain of flu that was prevalent in those years. This may lead some people to believe that the shot gave them the flu when, in fact, it didn’t. It just, for whatever reason, failed to protect them from catching it.
For a lot more detail…
Here are a few places where you can obtain more information:
A “STAT News” story, with an international overview
Of course, you should always check with your own doctor.
We had our shots
My wife and I got our flu shots in October, just as we’ve been getting them for many years. Neither of us has ever had a problem.
(This post first appeared as one of my columns on http://www.multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com)