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People’s Pharmacy: Does a flu shot make sense this year?

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 4, 2020

A pharmacist administers a flu shot in a drugstore in Paris on Oct. 14.  (Lewis Joly/Associated Press)
A pharmacist administers a flu shot in a drugstore in Paris on Oct. 14. (Lewis Joly/Associated Press)
By Joe Graedon, M.S.,</p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I am healthy, on no medications, work out at least three times per week and have always been very careful about washing my hands. I seem to have a strong immune system, as I get over colds quickly.

I haven’t had the flu shot in many years. Also, I have never had the flu, but I might just be lucky. My husband gets the shot every year and has not had the flu, either.

Now I am feeling pressured to get vaccinated for the flu this year because of COVID-19. Although I’m uncomfortable with the idea, should I get a flu shot? Is it safest to go to the doctor, where a nurse would give it properly? Would this make it less likely to damage my arm? Did Australia really have fewer regular flu cases this year? While I am not an anti-vaccine person, I do feel that Big Pharma pushes meds on people when they are not needed.

A. Public health authorities are encouraging everyone to get an influenza vaccination this year because of COVID-19. They hope this will keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. Additionally, they don’t want patients to suffer from two dangerous respiratory infections at the same time.

It is true that Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Southern Hemisphere countries had a light flu season because people were taking precautions against the pandemic. We can’t predict what the flu season will be like in the U.S. this year, though.

We do think a flu shot would be prudent. Generally speaking, nurses are well trained in how to administer vaccinations. We have received many complaints about shoulder and arm pain from ineptly given shots.

Q. About 10 years ago, my husband’s CRP level was high, and his vitamin D was low (in the 20s). His physician said he needed a high dose of vitamin D, so he took 5,000 units a day.

Six months later, his vitamin D level was over 40, and his CRP had dropped to normal. He was taking fish oil daily, as well. His doctor was quite surprised at the improvement in his CRP at the next office visit.

A. CRP stands for C-reactive protein, a biomarker for inflammation in the body. High levels are associated with heart disease as well as infection, injury or autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis.

It’s great that your husband was able to lower his CRP by taking vitamin D and fish oil. There is evidence that vitamin D supplements can help lower inflammation (Biological Trace Element Research, Sept. 21).

You can learn more about vitamin D and its effects in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. This online resource is available in the Health eGuides section of peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. My wife takes a blood thinner. If she gets a tiny scratch, it bleeds and bleeds. We’ve tried black pepper, but it doesn’t help. What else would work?

A. Ask her doctor to check that her dose of anticoagulant is appropriate. If all is well, she might want to stock up on a product called WoundSeal. This over-the-counter powder contains a polymer that mixes with blood to quickly form a scab and stop bleeding. If your pharmacy doesn’t carry it, you can order it online at woundseal.com.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website peoplespharmacy.com.

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