Is it too late to get a flu shot?

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In case you hadn’t noticed, Flu season is here a smidge early this year. Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe.

1) Flu is here this year. Usually flu will start getting widespread by the end of November. This year’s strains really became widespread nationwide last week. When flu co-circulates with viruses we see in January/February, the intensity of catching both at once can be brutal. In 2016, 71,000 hospitalizations were attributed to flu. It takes a week or so to full immunity, so don’t miss the window to get vaccinated.

2) How to prevent the flu: vaccinate. This year the nasal FluMist is off the market due to ineffectiveness. The problem is 24% of adults don’t get vaccinated because they don’t like needles. A 2012 study by Target found that almost a quarter of unvaccinated adults had a dislike of the poke itself. Unfortunately, needle-less options can hurt as much or more. For people who dislike needles, Buzzy, a vibrating cold pack, decreases injection pain 73-86%, and works better for adults. Needle fear is a barrier to vaccination that doesn’t get addressed often, but at least there are solutions.

3) With the recent focus on fighting illness with food, here’s some excellent research: probiotics work. Parents can prevent cold and flusymptoms using acidophilus, the “friendly bacteria” in yogurt twice a day. Probiotics highly significantly reduced cough, fever, snotty nose… you name it. Probiotics also had effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children 3-5 years. The same principles have been researched in adults.

4) Does an orange a day keep the doctor away? Lame question – who makes housecalls anymore? A better question is does high dose vitamin C (1g/day) help decrease the likelihood of catching flu. Short answer, nope, but a 2013 Cochrane review (highest quality reviews of existing studies) found… it helps. Sort of. In over 11,300 total patients, this was the verdict: “In adults the duration of colds was reduced by 8% (3% to 12%) and in children by 14% (7% to 21%). In children, 1 to 2 g/day vitamin C shortened colds by 18%.” So you got that going for you.

5) Wash your hands. Really.