Why I Get a Flu Shot
Getting a flu shot is part of my self-care plan. The most at risk for serious flu complications are young children, pregnant women, adults over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions. Since I fall in two of these categories, the vaccine is important to me as any stress such as suffering with flu may exacerbate my Parkinson’s symptoms. I might also get pneumonia and be hospitalized.
Being exposed to flu virus happens easily in a variety of scenarios. But we are often unaware how or when or where. Imagine I am shopping in my favorite retail store and trying on clothes. Each time I go in and out of the dressing room, my hand turns the germy door knob. What I don’t know is that the person in the dressing room before me sneezed in their hand. However, touching the contaminated door knob will not make me sick unless I touch my face. But shopping is tiring, and I remove my glasses for a minute and rub my eyes. Bingo! The germs have an entry point into my body. I can also be exposed to flu virus respiratory droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk, if I am nearby.
October is considered the start of flu season. December through February is usually the most active months. I live less than five minutes from Walgreen’s, so there is no excuse to put this errand off. On Monday, November 4, I got a flu shot. My Walgreen’s branch built a little medical room with a door that closes next to the pharmacy last month. The pharmacist gave me an easy form to complete with a half dozen questions such as “are you feeling sick today.” Less than ten minutes later I am out of the store. My upper right arm was a little sore in the evening, but by the second day, I did not notice it.
How Does the Shot Work?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests it takes two to four weeks for the antibodies to build up and provide immune system protection against the strains of flu included in the vaccine. So that is why it’s recommended that if you plan to get a flu shot, earlier in the fall is better than later. For example, getting a shot two days before Thanksgiving and flying to a family gathering the next day is not going to protect you that quickly.
The flu vaccine protects you from contracting upper respiratory flu. Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, sniffles, achiness and fatigue. You may get other strains of flu despite the shot, but may be less severe. The vaccine does not protect you from getting stomach flu. Encouraging other members of your household or your Parkinson’s caregiver to get a flu shot will be added protection for you.
Besides having a flu shot, here are some additional ways to decrease the risk of infection. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer gel in my purse to use in public when washing my hands is impossible or inconvenient. After I order and return the menu in restaurants, I sanitize my hands. Sanitizer dispensers displayed in medical and dental offices, grocery stores, gyms and airports remind me of the importance of clean hands.
When I have the opportunity to scrub my hands with soap and water in a public restroom, I try to leave without touching the door handle. If that is impossible, I use a clean tissue to touch the door handle. Otherwise, I sanitize my hands.
Tips to Minimize Exposure
- Eat at home more in December, January and February
- Go to your favorite buffet restaurant after flu season
- Avoid large crowds when possible
- Avoid touching your face since germs commonly enter through eyes and nose
- Stay home a little more than usual (but only for flu season! Parkinson’s people need to socialize)
- Avoid eating communal snacks often found at holiday and office parties
- Avoid public water fountains
- Combine errands so you can accomplish more, but be out less
- Sanitize hands after credit card transactions or money exchanges
- Ask yourself if it is really necessary to go out now
- Use online shopping
- Avoid shaking hands when possible
- Sanitize hands after touching elevator buttons or holding onto railings, transportation poles and escalators
- Disinfect hotspots in home and/or office that are perfect for transferring germs: railings, faucet handles, coffee pot handle, door knobs, door handles, refrigerator handles, cabinet handles, light switches, microwave buttons, telephone handset, smart phone screen, keyboard, mouse, tablet, printer button
- Wash hand towels and kitchen towels often
- Replace fabric handbag with leather or vinyl which can easily be wiped down
For more information about high risk groups and the flu, visit Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Question: What do you do that helps to decrease risk of getting the flu?