As I was walking into Walmart recently, a nice woman standing at the door asked, “Would you like to get a flu shot? There’s no waiting right now.”
In a hurry, I declined, but I realize I should take the flu a lot more seriously than I do. I haven’t gotten a flu shot for the past several years, and I have no good excuse.
There are a number of important reasons to get immunized. I should know. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19.
But my first experience with a flu shot did not go well. It was the swine flu outbreak of 1976, and at the college I attended, they strongly recommended that students get immunized. So I took the shot – and got sicker than a dog (maybe “hog” would be a better word) for several days.
It took awhile to overcome my misgivings over flu shots, but I eventually did. And the next time that nice lady at Walmart asks the same question, I’ll say, “Yes, ma’am,” and roll up my sleeve.
I most certainly won't be getting a flu shot this year or any other year. While I'm not an anti-vaccination supporter, flu shots are another story.
While I was in the Marines, we were forced to get a yearly flu shot. Unfortunately, they were usually done just before the holidays when I was about to take some leave to return home and visit my family.
Without fail, for four years in a row, my arm that had received the injection would become sore, red and tender, and I'd spend the next couple of nights in a sweaty, restless sleep accompanied by a raging headache.
By the time I'd arrive at my mom's for Christmas, I'd usually find myself coming down with what undoubtedly felt like the flu. For four years, my holidays were spent under the weather. Of course, when I explained this reaction to military doctors, I was ignored, which shouldn't surprise any veterans reading this.
Once out of the military, I haven't had a flu shot in more than 20 years, and as far as I can remember, I've probably had the flu no more than three times. I don't know why I react to them the way I do, but they're definitely not for me.
I think the biggest way to reduce the chance of catching the flu or a cold comes about from making sure you get plenty of sleep, eat right and not over exerting yourself.
While I've never had a flu shot, I try to schedule one for my children every year. They are constantly around germs while attending school, and we've been burned before by ignoring their flu shots.
One year, one child had the flu on Christmas Day, with the other spending New Year's Eve with a 104-degree temperature. We canceled our family party and tried to keep my daughter's spirits up by watching New Year's Eve specials on television. We jokingly refer to that year's so-called celebration as "Flu Year's Eve." But at the time, it was no laughing matter.
Because my daughter has viral-induced asthma, getting that annual flu shot is even more important. She has ended up with severe asthma attacks because of the flu in the past and has even had bouts of pneumonia.
While her asthma seems to be getting better as she gets older, I still don't like to take the chance when a vaccination may be enough to protect her from getting the flu and any complications that may arise from that.