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The Flu Shot

With flu season upon us, it's time again to face that annual question once again: flu shot or no flu shot?

With flu season upon us, it's time again to face that annual question once again: flu shot or no flu shot?

Each winter, the flu vaccine is manufactured based upon the data collected from strains of flu that arrive in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter, which is our summer. Extensive amounts of research and development go into the study of flu strains, and the vaccines reflect that up-to-the minute research.

Yet the decision to get a flu shot goes beyond the issue of whether or not the flu shot will "work" from one year to the next: questions remain about whether the flu shot itself is harmful, whether the preservatives used are harmful, and whether the vaccine's impact on our natural immunity is harmful. And many people who have not actually suffered from the flu minimize its impact on those who are more susceptible.

Making the Decision:

The first step is to collect accurate information. Some flu shots still contain thimerosal, an organic form of mercury used as a preservative. Thimerosal has been hypothetically linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in children such as autism, mental retardation, speech disorders, and personality disorders. Please be reminded that not all flu formulations are alike: there are flu shots for children over 6 months of age that are preservative free. ask your doctor about the specific ingredients.

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Secondly, if you have a baby, young child or an elderly family member, assess the risk to their health should you get sick, as well as your overall ability to care for them. If you work outside the home, can you afford to miss 5 days of work? For your children, are they old enough to fight the infection effectively on their own? Ask your doctor to review the risks of your child contracting the flu this winter.

Third, consider the alternatives:

FluMist is a thimerosal-free, intranasal, alternative for people from 5 to 50 years of age. However, the intranasal delivery system is much less uniform and potentially much less effective, especially in younger children who have a difficult time inhaling in synchrony with the intranasal dose. Furthermore, because it is a live virus, you can get mild transient flu symptoms.

Herbal supplements include lime flower (Tilia) for nasal congestion,) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is anti-inflammatory. In addition, elderberry syrup ( Sambucol) helps with fever, muscle pain and respiratory symptoms. It also strengthens cell and mucus membranes to inhibit viral penetration and spread of disease. Numerous studies show Oscillococcinum can reduce the severity and duration of the flu.
Other herbal alternatives to help boost your immune system this winter include Zinc, Western larch (Larix occidentalis), Olive leaf extract (Olea europaea) and Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare). Ask your doctor to review.

Finally, make your decision early:

The flu season is scheduled to peak in January or early February so the ideal time to get the vaccine would be before the end of December.. Begin to reinvigorate your immune strength, and do not forget the staple of infectious disease control: hand washing.


Herbal Medicine: 101

As a pediatrician trained in both western (M.D.) and alternative (Ayurvedic) medicine, I am always careful to ask the families in my practice what vitamins or supplements or herbs they have addede to their daily health regimen so that we can work together to insure the health and safety of their child.

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