Since so many of us with chronic illnesses stay at home most of the week, we aren’t exposed to the upper respiratory germs that people in the workplace run across daily*. Additionally, many chronic illnesses also include an immune system dysfunction.
It can be a shock to find out a family member, friend or caregiver has passed along a bug that hits you hard. Suddenly your nose starts to run, your throat is a bit scratchy and you may even feel overheated. Do you have the dreaded flu or a cold?
Many people think a fever occurs only with flu, but there is a huge overlap between non-flu viruses and those produce by classic influenza. That said, there are some predictable differences between the two contagious illnesses.
Quick, An Hour or Less
Several Days of Increasing Symptoms
Can Be Within Hours
Wet, Produces Mucous
Like You Were Run Over by a Truck
Slightly to Moderately Increased
Severe, Often Sinuses Inflamed
Often With Swollen Neck Glands
GI—Nausea, Diarrhea, Stomach Ache
Just about everyone in the medical community, as well as many bloggers, say it’s crucial everyone get a flu vaccination—preferably before the end of October. The flu shot’s effectiveness can vary from about 50% to 90% depending on how well vaccine manufacturers determined which strain of flu would be most active in the 2018-19 Flu Season.
Experts say that even if the vaccine is only 30-40% effective someone with it will have a quicker and easier time getting over the flu. Another reason frequently discussed is that vaccinations save lives. The rationale is that by vaccinating yourself, you’ll be much less likely to acquire and spread it to at-risk groups.
But say you are one of the millions of people with a compromised immune system. What to do? This was the subject of a recent, very long thread on the subject on a Facebook group I frequent for people with ME/CFS.
By the time the thread closed, there was no clear consensus. People spoke about how many months (usually three to four) they took to recover from flu and swore they would never go without a vaccination again. Others said they were down for three to four weeks with immune system activation after receiving a vaccination for flu.
Personally, I use the Mayo Health System. Inexplicably, Mayo still recommends the discredited results of an infamous research study–graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as the primary treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome. Sadly, it does not list myalgic encephalomyelitis as a disease or condition.
I have a Masters in Nursing Science and worked as a Nurse Practitioner in South Carolina, Colorado, and Wisconsin before contracting this damn disease (ME/CFS). I do my own research and, since Mayo still clings to outdated and erroneous recommendations based on the highly flawed PACE Trial in the UK, I make up my own mind as far as my own health issues go.
So, as I have done many times in the past when faced with a decision, I wrote out the pros and cons.
FOR FLU VACCINATION (PRO)
AGAINST FLU VACCINATION (CON)
May help hubby, on O2 for COPD, avoid getting the flu
May trigger extended (2-4 wks) immune system reaction
Maybe bedridden for months if I get the flu
I have not had flu since contracting ME, actually not since I was a young woman
Chronically ill with a disease that began with a coxsackievirus infection
I am seldom ill from community-acquired infections, even when I was not homebound
I am chronically ill with a disease that began with a coxsackievirus infection, some specialists believe a subclinical enterovirus infection is at the root of ME
As Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH wrote in response to a question asking if flu vaccination making autoimmune diseases worse, “The CDC and other experts generally recommend that people with autoimmune diseases get the seasonal flu vaccine. This is because people with autoimmune conditions are at higher risk of having flu complications, and it’s estimated that the overall risk of being harmed by the flu is higher than the small risk of developing an autoimmune exacerbation related to the vaccine.
People with autoimmune conditions should not get the live attenuated flu vaccine. (But that one is not recommended in the US this year, anyway.)
I think there are certainly some doctors who believe it’s risky for people with autoimmune issues to get the flu shot. I was not able to find much scientific evidence regarding the risk, however, so I’m not sure we really know what the risk is.
I would recommend you discuss your questions regarding the likely benefits and risks of flu vaccination with your own doctors. You may want to discuss this question with a rheumatologist, as they may have a better understanding of the guidelines and research evidence on this topic.
I respect Dr. Kernisan and so if she could find no contradictions for a person with a (presumed) autoimmune disease receiving an annual flu vaccination, I can’t argue with it.
I will be doing a 16-day Buddhist practice for my health starting this weekend. Not wanting a possible reaction to immune system triggering from the vaccine during this time of prayers and meditation, I will not get vaccinated until after the retreat finishes on November 5th.
I’ll let you all know if I have any sort of reaction to the vaccination. But what about you? Have you had a reaction to flu shots? Do you get an annual flu vaccination?
*I’m talking about folks who are deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration. If you are in the process of applying for disability or have just been denied benefits, there is an excellent post on how to appeal a disability denial as well as a host of other valuable information. Check it out on this website howtogeton.wordpress.com/.