It's flu season and if you haven't already heard the rolling thunder of melodious sneezes in your classes, you may have at least noticed a few Rudolphs around campus. Better yet, you may have a flu or cold yourself. How glorious is it when oodles of work weigh down upon your weary shoulders and you are compelled to deal with irritating flu symptoms while being nagged by others to get a flu shot. This season, however, think twice before getting one, as flu shots bring meaning to the phrase, "It's not what it seems."
Since the introduction of free flu shots, everyone has been raving about them-- their benefits, the number of cases prevented, the boosted immune system, increased protection and so on. These benefits are not all true.
One should note that students are typically in good form and have stronger immune systems than children and seniors. It is a better idea for students to maintain their health and boost their immune systems the natural way so it is ready to ward off any viruses, rather than relying on vaccines and dealing with their side-effects. For students, it is simply not worth getting a flu shot.
The one pitch used to convince the public to get flu shots is the one that backfires most. The public is advised to get a flu shot every year because the shot is different annually, as doctors include the newest strains of viruses in the vaccine. Yet, recently, they have failed to do just that.
"Every year, flu experts make an educated guess about which flu strains end up being the most common before deciding which ones to include in the vaccine the following year," Dr. Don Low, microbiologist in chief at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital told CBC news. "For 2007, flu experts chose the wrong ones."
As expected, the results were disastrous.
"... We had quite a robust year for influenza," Low said.
Why do doctors and health-care systems try to convince the public of the benefits of flu shots, when the research being done is not adequate enough? In the case of a wrong guess, like in 2007, even a flu shot will not protect individuals from the current strain. Regardless of whether or not one decides to get the vaccine, avoiding sickness simply requires a strong immune system, one that students should be able to maintain.
Many people who take flu shots are unaware of the hidden presents you get with them-- side effects. If the 28 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 who get flu shots annually, according to Statistics Canada, found out that flu shots carry some serious side effects with them, the numbers would take a nosedive. Fever, muscle pain and weakness are possible side effects of the flu shot. The flu shot may also cause a mild case of the flu and one in a million people will develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a nervous system disease. Most people would point out defensively that the odds are one in a million of developing GBS. But the mere possibility of getting a nervous system disease is daunting and sure to put off the many people who did get the shot.
For students, this risk doesn't make a lot of sense. It is much better to stay healthy naturally by eating well and staying active.