Don’t Shoot Me.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Nov 21, 2011
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Apparently, it’s flu shot season again.















(Photo: expertinfantry)

Everywhere you go right now, you can get a flu shot.

Most grocery stores have a flu shot clinic. The library is doing a flu shot clinic. Drug stores, malls––I’m pretty sure by the end of the week Starbucks with be offering free flu shots with their Eggnog Lattes. It’s what we are supposed to do, right?

On their website, the Center for Disease Control explains that a flu shot is a good preventative measure and will help prevent the influenza virus. They stress that it  is especially important for young children and the elderly, because of their high risk of complications from the influenza virus. They go on to say that during years when the viruses in the vaccine and the viruses circulating nationwide are not a good match, the vaccine may not be effective. Also, they mention that it isn’t usually that effective for children and the elderly since their immune systems are weaker.

So let’s look at this:

The vaccine may not prevent you from what’s out there this year. They are guessing based on last year.

The people they recommend it for the most are the least likely to have it be effective.

This is from the CDC, not an anti-vaccination group.

Also of note are the possible complications and side effects: soreness, fever, aches, wheezing, headache, vomiting, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, allergic reaction, and “flu like” symptoms. Oh, and if you are including the H1N1 “swine flu” vaccine, may cause vasculitis, paralysis, anaphylactic shock, and death. This doesn’t even take into account the widely debated but not unreasonable concerns about injecting oneself and one’s family with heavy metals and preservatives.

This isn’t meant to be inflammatory or anti-Western medicine.  While some people take a staunch, anti-vaccination stance, I do believe that they have their place. I don’t think that place is the corner drug store, grocery store, library, school, Target or McDonalds. (Psst…I heard if you get your flu shot at Trader Joe’s you get a free bottle of two-buck Chuck!)

So what do we do then? Cross our fingers and hope for the best?  Go with an equally controversial and possibly unhelpful assortment of holistic remedies? For every article you read on how helpful Echinacea is, you can find three more saying it does nothing or (worse) it might actually make you sicker. There are so many natural remedies to fight colds and flu. Everyone has an opinion, a favorite tea, soup or supplement that is their miracle cure.

Instead of all that, here are eight non-controversial, non-invasive things you can do to prevent colds and flu this winter:

1. Wash your hands. You don’t need to go Howard Hughes with this. After the bathroom, before you eat and after blowing your nose or similar are fine. Use common sense. You don’t need anything fancy, just hot water and soap, or an alcohol based waterless cleanser if they aren’t available.

2. Stay hydrated. The human body is about 70% water. We lose about a pint of water a day from exhalation alone. If you want to keep everything flowing along happily, you need to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to cut your body weight in half, and drink that number in ounces of water per day. Coffee is wonderful, but make sure you are compensating for its diuretic effects with extra water.

3. Eat your fruits and vegetables. There is new information every day about the miraculous effects of various fruits and vegetables. I’ve heard they will enable you to do everything from leaping  tall buildings in single bound, to being the world’s greatest lover, to having the skin of a five year old. I don’t know if I buy all of it. It’s not magical; it’s common sense. Eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is good for your health. (P.S. they help you stay hydrated too.)

4. Move your body. Your circulatory system has your heart to keep things pumping. Your lymph system (one of your immune system superheroes) needs to you move to keep things flowing. Go for a walk, ride your bike, go to yoga, get a massage.

5. Breathe. Deep breathing boosts your immune system by lowering stress hormones and reminding your nervous system that you aren’t being attacked. Even  two minutes is helpful. Even better if it’s accompanied by meditation.

6. Get enough sleep. No sleep, no human growth hormone. We make less of this as we age. Once you’ve reached your full height, the main purpose of HGH is tissue repair. Want to look and feel horrible? Get less sleep than you need. Everyone’s “enough” sleep amount varies, but regularly getting at least seven hours of sleep is a good baseline for adults.

7. Go outside. Get some sunshine! Especially in the wintertime, every little bit helps your body make vitamin D and regulate serotonin levels. Getting out of stuffy, overheated, germ-filled rooms is a good motivator to go outside too.

8. Laugh. Laughing moves your lymph system, brings in oxygen, boosts lots of happy hormones like serotonin and interleukin. It lowers levels of stress hormones. It also helps in ways that science just doesn’t understand yet. (Crying helps too, in a different way, but for some of the same reasons.)

Bonus to help with number eight: in lieu of flu shot, a little Louis C.K.

(Some NSFW language and will result in massive laughter and possible rolling on the floor.)


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


20 Responses to “Don’t Shoot Me.”

  1. Not sure about that…but the vaccine for whooping cough (pertussis) is pretty frightening too. A chiropractor friend said he would rather his kids get the whooping cough as horrible as it is (and then have acquired immunity) than do the vaccine.

    We tend to do the above in our house (and Sambucol as a preventative/Occillococcinum for treatment) haven't tried iodine. Will definitely look into it!

  2. Never got the shot, never will! My son's pediatrician mentioned it, but no for my son either. Knock on wood (perhaps the best way to avoid the flu?) we haven't been hit. Great points, Kate!

  3. Thanks Lynn! What's scary is that some states are trying to make it mandatory for school (mostly daycare/preschool age children so far…) Somehow that makes me even more leery.

  4. __MikeG__ says:

    According to the CDC there are an average of 23,000 deaths from flu each year in the U.S and millions of flu shots have been given without complication. Life threatening complications from flu vaccinations are very rare and usually occur within minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccination. For me the numbers are convincing, especially for the vulnerable populations of the very young and the elderly.

    From the Washington Post:

    The average number of deaths was 23,607. But the CDC found that there was a very wide range, from as few as 3,349 died in the 1986-1987 flu season but as many as 49,614 in the 2003-2004 season. The difference from year to year was largely due to the strain of flu virus that was circulating. For example, seasons when H3N2 viruses were prominent had nearly triple the number of flu-associated deaths than in years when influenza A or influenza B viruses were prominent.

  5. guest says:

    and here we go again. I won't get a flu shot but this article beats the same wrong information home, I actually clicked on it just to see if someone got it right.
    a) it doesn't matter where you get your flu shot, as long as it's from a health provider (so if Trade Joe's offers shots, go ahead)
    b) the heavy metal myth doesn't seem to die out. anyone care to do their homework instead of just plagiarizing the previous wrong article? vaccines either have no heavy metal in them (but something that's a derivate of a compound, not the same as the heavy metal and not dangerous)-and even if they did, the amount you get from one shot is less than you take in naturally every day (hmm..sushi!) So skip the heavy metal scare. it's wrong. yes, it's completely unreasonable!
    c) as someone previously mentioned, the side effects are milder and less common than the illness they are preventing. Your chances of having serious side effects are negligible compared to your chances of getting the flu. (if you are healthy and in a country with health care, you should be ok even without a flu shot)

    Thanks for the stay healthy guide though, I need to be reminded to get more veggies and more liquid this week. 🙂
    PS: yogi tobey: no, the recent outbreak of whopping cough was due to parents refusing to vaccine their children.

  6. Lara says:

    -there is no mercury in vaccine
    -adjuvants are in such a low dose that it's not poison. (go google "vaccination myth debunked with science")
    -as with most vaccines, no vaccine prevents getting sick 100% but even if the person gets the flu, it won't be life threatening.
    -I looked up the CDC information, your sentence is misleading. A mismatch in virus vs. vaccine means an lower efficiency, not that it's not effective at all. (48% vs. 70%, not 0%). Children need two shots instead of one. so it's not not effective, just less effective.

  7. Lara – as per the vaccine manufacturer's ingredient list, the flu vaccine currently contains 25 mcg. of mercury in the form of thimerosal. The effects of this are in dispute, but the fact that it is in the vaccine is not. It has been removed from most vaccines given in infancy. I am not anti all vaccinations, or making autism or similar claims, just playing devil's advocate that maybe the risks are not worth the possible benefits.

    I did paraphrase the CDC information, but I believe I was clear in my statement of "less effective" or "might not be effective" rather than simply not effective.

    The carcinogenic effects of formaldehyde are science. If it is going into my body, even a low dose of poison is not an acceptable risk to me in terms of preventative medicine.

    All the best,

  8. Thanks for being part of the dialogue, Emily!

  9. __MikeG__ says:

    Thanks Emily for the educated response.

    Kate, you make mention about the "risks" and the "gamble" of flu vaccinations. The "gamble" is a short list of very minor side effects vs. tens of thousands of people dead each year on average. And the number of deaths from flu is under reported as many flu deaths are attributed to pneumonia.

  10. Thanks Mike! We each need to weigh which risks are acceptable to us when we make these decisions. I've outlined my reasons for my decision in the comments above.

    The larger point of my article was to focus on simple things we can do to stay healthy (or return to health more quickly) and all of those steps would be effective for someone who chose to have a flu shot as well.

  11. Riva says:

    Considering the side effects from the Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis) vaccine may include soreness, redness and swelling in the arm where the shot was given. Headache and mild fever may also occur (, while whooping cough itself can cause complications such as pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage or even death ( I would go for the vaccine over the virus any day.

  12. Thanks for commenting Riva! Tough decisions we have sometimes with regard to health care, huh?

  13. Lara says:

    thimerosal is not mercury. it's very toxic in larger quantities. But so is water. thimerosal turns into ethylmercury (not "mercury") and is eliminated fairly quickly. thimerosal is also used in allergy testing btw.… (and wikipedia explains it as well)
    I know, I hated chemistry as well in school but these claims are made over and over again and scientists want to tear out their hair in desperation that explanations don't take hold in the general public.

  14. Lara says:

    ETA: your intake of mercury and mercury compounds through environmental intake daily is higher, I am not worried about thiomersal intake in a vaccine *once every couple of years*. Plus, if you are worried about that, get a single dose shot, they don't contain thiomersal.
    Formaldehyde is used during production and residues remain in the vaccine. Plus your body has a way to deal with small amounts of formaldehyde which is present everywhere.
    again, the amount makes the toxicity.

  15. Ben_Ralston says:

    Great article Kate.
    You are writing from a perspective of fearless love, and many readers are coming from a perspective of fearful anxiety. But you've handled the comments with aplomb! (good word huh?!)
    The real issue for me in all this is how far removed we have become, as a species, from nature – from our natural environment.
    Probably it is better for people who sit all day, smoke, eat fast food, and hand over their power and responsibility for their own health and well-being to strangers, to take these shots.

    You and I and anyone who prefers to take responsibility for their health, happiness and well-being (not to mention the health happiness and well-being of our descendants, because yes, everything we do to our bodies affects them too) knows that being injected with toxins is not a good solution. I personally believe that in years to come there will be a link found between vaccinations and a large number of physical and mental health issues that have increased rapidly since vaccinations became health policy.

    In my personal experience: I used to get the flu a lot. Since I became vegetarian and worked on a lot of subconscious issues, healed childhood trauma, etc, I haven't had it once in about 10 years.

    Illness and disease is a natural part of life. When we make an enemy of it we also make an enemy of a deeper part of ourselves, and then we live in constant fear. And that's what a lot of people are doing these days: living in an awful lot of fear.

  16. deathtoall says:

    i agree with half of this. But when it's done properly pandamic disease can be prevented.

  17. Thanks Gordon! I had seen someone mention this (or a similar study) recently but didn't include it because I didn't have all the info. Thanks for sharing it.

  18. […] that there is something I’m avoiding by taking the pain-killers. But, with my avoidance of pharmaceuticals, I decided instead to take the circuitous route and discover how many ways I can prevent my […]

  19. […] that there is something I’m avoiding by taking the pain-killers. But, with my avoidance of pharmaceuticals, I decided instead to take the circuitous route and discover how many ways I can prevent my […]

  20. Chloe says:

    No! It’s about herd immunity so you can’t pass it on to the vulnerable! Please vaccinate! Just look at the numbers and you will see that it’s better to get the shot than risk getting the flu and passing it to your dear old gran or little baby. You only have to look at places that don’t vaccinate and you will see the rates of communicable diseases are high, both mortality and morbidity.