By Brian Kreissl
I usually get my flu shot every year, either at my work or from my family doctor if I happen to see her in the fall. This year, for some reason, I was really busy when we were having flu shots at work — and I wasn’t at the doctor’s office when she was giving the vaccinations — with the result I never got mine this year.
Anyway, I didn’t think much of it because I can’t remember the last time I had the flu. I was pretty sick about seven years ago with flu-like symptoms caused by a weird bacterial infection that lasted a couple of weeks, but that wasn’t the flu, which is a virus. But since then, other than the occasional cold, I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of being sick.
However, around New Year’s Day, I began to get a cough, runny nose, aching muscles, cold sweats, extreme fatigue, low energy and a general feeling of malaise. It was so bad, I barely had the energy to perform the simplest tasks like make myself a snack or even brush my teeth. All I wanted to do was sleep (no it wasn’t a New Year’s Eve hangover).
It was pretty obvious I had the flu and not simply a cold. I heard there is a bit of a flu epidemic right now, and anecdotally I know of several people who have been sick.
From what I understand, if you’ve got a fever (which I didn’t really have, although I did have the cold sweats), extreme achiness or fatigue that stops you dead in your tracks, you’ve likely got a flu as opposed to a cold (although a bad cold can be pretty nasty too). The flu also typically lasts longer than a cold.
More than one week later, I’ve only just started to recover. Luckily, I’m no longer getting cold sweats and I have a little more energy. Yet I’m still coughing up phlegm and I slept almost 12 hours last night (and I felt like I wanted to sleep even longer this morning).
Misconceptions surrounding the flu shot
I firmly believe things wouldn’t have been as bad if I got my flu shot in the fall. Yet many people remain unconvinced the flu shot can help prevent influenza — which sounds a lot more serious than “the flu” for some reason, doesn’t it?
How many times have we heard stories about people claiming they got the flu shot and still got sick, or even that the flu shot actually made them get the flu?
I suspect those people got the cold and either confused it with the flu, or somehow don’t understand the flu shot won’t prevent the cold. Others may have got the flu, but a much less severe form than what they would have gotten without the flu shot.
I also believe people often forget the flu shot takes at least a couple of weeks to work. Therefore, I believe people can sometimes think the flu shot actually gave them the flu – especially where they got the flu immediately after getting the injection.
Let’s face it, when people hear vaccines are made using weakened, inactive or dead forms of a virus, many of them will panic and think they can contract the virus anyway. But, while I’m no scientist myself, I believe the scientific and medical community when they say you can’t get influenza from the flu shot. Although I understand others feel differently.
Implications for employers
Flu shots can be an important and effective part of an organization’s wellness and attendance management programs. Offering on-site flu shots is a good way to help employees avoid what can be a debilitating and sometimes life-threatening illness.
Yet, other than in extremely sensitive settings such as health care, I don’t believe flu shots should be mandatory. And even in a medical setting, it’s important to remember some people are allergic to certain ingredients in the flu shot, and there’s a possibility someone could have religious objections to vaccinations.
But beyond those situations, I believe flu shots should be voluntary. And while I believe employers should help educate employees about truths and misconceptions surrounding the flu shot, employees shouldn’t be forced or coerced to accept the flu shot or be ridiculed for not getting it.
I personally know some people who have pretty strong objections to the flu shot, and I’ve given up trying to convince them they’re wrong. But personally, I’m going to ensure I get my flu shot next year.
Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.