Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Faulty Pancreas Says: "Get a Flu Shot!"

I've not been a fan of flu shots for most of my life -- even though I know they're important with diabetes when the colder winter months set in. As a kid, getting an annual shot was standard protocol. But when I reached my adult years, that practice mostly fell off my radar, and became only an occasional afterthought.

But that's been different in recent years, and I have my friends in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) to thank for changing my mind.

True confession: Before getting back into the practice, my last flu shot was in 2012 (according to my blog posts reflecting as much). That was specifically because of the flu we came down with following Thanksgiving that year before, giving me a kick in the pants to re-start pursuing the vaccine. Of course you'd think I'd be all over preventing that "real person sick" (beyond the usual diabetes yuck) every year, but let's face it, there's a lot to manage with diabetes and sometimes we let things slip.

These days, working out of a home office, I guess I decided my need wasn't as great as if I were regularly exposed to people. My wife Suzi has actually been diligent about getting her annual shot since our 2011 episode, in large part because she works at a financial institution where she has daily interactions with the general (germy) public. So she's guarded on the front-end, but I have not been.

Until now.

Maybe it's the move back to Michigan, which brings at least two extra months of winter -- one on each end of the season -- and chills to the bone thanks to the Great Lakes wintry effect. Or maybe it's just the return to our roots that set the stage for my renewed motivation. Whatever the reason, I've taken the shot to the arm this year, and plan to do so annually from now on.

We haven't yet found our way to a new primary care doc yet, but our local Walgreens does the job well enough. We both got our vaccines just after Thanksgiving, and I daresay this is a key time for people with diabetes (PWDs) who haven't gotten done so yet, because:

  • Typically, the four months of December through March make up the peak season for the flu, even though it can hit hard anytime during winter. So before Christmas is a great time to get an influenza vaccine.
  • Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to get hold and take effect in your body.
  • Yes, people with chronic medical conditions like us are on the list of those who are at highest risk for the flu -- along with kids and those older than 65. See, we PWDs do get priority status for something!
When I started looking into it, I found there's a lot I didn't know about the flu and the vaccine in general. Being a history buff, I was excited to stumble across the "History of the Flu Shot." Amazing to think that a century ago, the flu was a worldwide pandemic that killed millions and infected one-fifth of the world's population. Whoa! Thankfully, a lot has changed since then on the influenza front.

My frend Wil Dubois has also offered some solid advice and information on this topic. Some important factoids about the Flu Season:

  • Depending on the year, the CDC reports that the flu strikes between 5-20% of the U.S. population, sending more than 200,000 people a year to hospitals. As many as 49,000 of them never go home again. Most of those deaths are in the elderly, the young, the pregnant, and "people with certain health conditions."
  • For more info on the flu + diabetes in particular, there's a host of materials available from the "official" D-authorities -- from the American Diabetes Association to the Joslin Diabetes Center and the CDC.

Fellow D-peep Christel Aprigliano who blogs at The Perfect D is one of the most vocal flu shot advocates we know, and her writing was definitely a factor in pushing me to get a shot this year. Like her, I slacked on getting flu shots for years. But now that I'm in my mid 30s and we're around our friends' and family's children more often, we are renewing our flu shot vows, so to speak.

Of course, "real person sick" can still happen and I have my Sick Day Plans ready.

We're stocked up on chicken soup and green tea, and I'm prepared with my D-specific remedies that include higher basal rates and regular 7-Up/Sprite, which actually helps when you can't keep anything down and need to keep your BGs from plunging.

But hopefully, the shot I got does the trick and we can sit out this Flu Season. We shall see. All we can do is be prepared.

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This post written by Mike Hoskins originally appeared on DiabetesMine in Oct. 2015.