Prevention: you keep using that word…

Preventing disease relies on an important principle: you have to do it before you get sick.  I bring this up because of the most common reason I hear for skipping the flu shot: “I’ve never had the flu before.”

Look, I don’t get in a lot of car accidents. In fact, I’ve never been in a bad one, but I still wear a seat belt.  You know those commercials for investment plans? You know how they always say, “past performance does not guarantee future results?”

It’s the same with health.  While your current state of health can certainly influence what happens in the future, many problems are relatively independent variables. Most people are susceptible to the flu, and not getting the flu is simply luck. It does not help predict whether you will get the flu in the future.

And just to remind everyone, the flu is not a benign little cold. It is a potentially fatal disease that, at its best, leaves you stuck at home miserable for a couple of weeks with fevers, cough, and horrible muscle aches.

Another common flu question regards the several different available vaccines. This year in addition to the usual trivalent vaccine there is a quadrivalent (it has an extra flu B strain covered) and an “old folks” high dose vaccine.  There is no preferential recommendation for any of these vaccines. None are known to be more or less effective, or at least not enough to recommend one over the other.  The most important thing is to get your flu shot soon. Which shot is less important.

If you don’t get the vaccine this year, I’ll pass on the bit of wisdom I give to my patients: good luck.


  1. Bob K.

     /  October 31, 2013

    “the most common reason I hear for skipping the flu shot: “I’ve never had the flu before.””
    My dad used to make the same excuse. Last year at age 64, he got the flu and it threatened his life. I finally got him to change his tune about flu vaccines. Hopefully he remembers that and gets his vaccine this year.

  2. Some of my friends ask if they’ll get sick because of it! I don’t think so, it’s just normally another bug that was cooking, their immune system took off some time to work on the vaccine particles, and the initial bug came in, right? I told them they’ll be fine, get good sleep the night you get the shot!

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