I’m going to get sick anyway so why bother with a flu shot?
Q: My eight-year old daughter and I got our flu shots and then got sick anyway. I think next year we’ll skip it. What’s the use? — Carolina B., New York, N.Y.
A: It’s not fair to blame the flu vaccine. There are several viruses out there that are not influenza: respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, rhinovirus, croup and the common cold. You may have had one of those common infections, and your flu vaccine may be protecting you and your daughter even now. Plus, it has many remarkable benefits including, but not limited to, preventing the flu or lessening its impact.
For example, a recent Danish study found that kids who experience a bad-enough infection to require hospitalization are at an 83 per cent higher risk of developing a mental disorder and a 42 per cent higher risk of using psychotropic medications. The flu qualifies as one of those potentially hospital-serious infections. You want to help your child dodge those risks for sure! And we wonder, could that be related to another study from the U.K. that identified a rise in anxiety among British children, in a country where many kids don’t get flu vaccines?
Adults also are at risk if they skip the shot, and a survey shows that over half of all adults are currently not vaccinated against the flu, and four in 10 don’t intend to get the shot! That’s a shame. A 2013 study of randomized clinical trials published in JAMA showed that “influenza vaccine was associated with a lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events ... The greatest treatment effect was seen among the highest-risk patients with more active coronary disease.”
So for young and old, remember the saying: “For want of a horseshoe nail, the kingdom was lost.” It means if you ignore first steps, one thing leads to another until the end result is not what you want.
The same thing can be said about skipping your flu shot. It’s not too late to get one!
Q: My dad has a rifle, a shotgun and a few pistols. He’s 82 and was a competitive marksman back in the day. But I just heard about a health care worker who was shot by an 80-year-old in her care. She’d been with him five days a week for several months. Should I ask him if I can have his guns? — Jack K., Seattle
A: As our population grows older, the problem that comes along with the combination of dementia and guns needs attention! Forty-five per cent of people 65 and older have guns in their household, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, while nine per cent of Americans 65 and older are diagnosed with dementia — and many others suffer from reduced cognition and mobility issues. The combination has become such a problem that a nonprofit Alzheimer’s volunteer group in San Diego has decided not to send volunteers into homes with weapons after discovering that 25 to 30 per cent of the households their “helpers” visited had guns.
Security is one of the biggest reasons why people own guns. But when older people start to experience cognition and other physical challenges, imagined threats can seem all too real. Remember the episode on “The Sopranos” in which Junior (Dominic Chianese) walks into the kitchen and shoots his nephew Tony (James Gandolfini) while he’s making pasta, thinking he’s an intruder?
A recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine voiced doctors’ concerns about the risk of suicide by gun owners with dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the U.S. is highest among those 65 and older, and firearms are the most common method.
AARP suggests families draw up an advance directive (sort of a health care proxy) for a firearm retirement date. Another suggestion is to put any ammunition under (your) lock and key.
So now that you have this information, sit down with your dad and have a frank discussion about his guns.
“Adults also are at risk if they skip the shot, and a survey shows that over half of all adults are currently not vaccinated against the flu, and four in 10 don’t intend to get the shot!”
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocs[email protected]care.com.