‘Tis The Season

 

With Hurricane Irma threatening, as most South Carolinians converged on grocery stores last week to buy bottled water, batteries, non-perishable food and the like, I followed the herd. While there, I used the restroom. To my surprise, a woman in the last stall was having a conversation on her cell phone! This is not the first time I’ve shared the restroom with someone using their phone, nor was it the first time I watched them leave without flushing or washing their hands. Ugh! I then observed her cruising the grocery aisles, still talking on the cell phone squeezed between her tilted head and hunched shoulder, as she sorted through apples and canned goods, a vivid reminder that germs lurk everywhere.

What also surprised me was an article in the AARP Bulletin, “Boomers Are Skipping Needed Vaccinations”. I am not one of those boomers.  After two months of bronchitis last winter, I’m super aware of germs and getting vaccinations. My odyssey of antibiotics and inhalers started as a head cold after a shopping trip to, yes, a grocery store just before Christmas. While I always get a flu shot, last year’s ordeal is also a reminder that as we get older, we are prone to complications. A chest x-ray did not indicate pneumonia (whew!), but it was an obvious possibility.

Flu season is now closing in upon us again. According to my doctor, flu season in the United States is October through May. Vaccinations are widely available. If you are working in retirement, your employer may offer vaccinations for free.

In my area a doctor’s appointment is not necessary to obtain a flu shot. My local pharmacist can administer the vaccine. In fact, that’s also how I got my shingles vaccine after seeing a friend with the blistering, painful rash on her forehead. Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for shingles.  Even if you have already had shingles, you are at risk for shingles.  That’s right.  Just seeing what my friend was going through, not to mention the ugly sight, was enough to send me running to the pharmacy. Since then, I have known many, many people who have gone through the ordeal of shingles. There is much where I will take my chances, this is not one of them.

Other vaccines to put in your arsenal of staying healthy are the pneumococcal pneumonia and tetanus shots. Until I fell in October 2015 and cut my head open, a tetanus booster was no where on my mind. When the ER doctor asked me when I had had one last, I couldn’t remember. Did I ever have one in South Carolina or was the last one nearly two decades ago in Michigan? If you can’t remember when, that’s a clear indication to get one.

My experience with bronchitis last year is a strong reminder of our general growing resistance to antibiotics, which are used to treat other conditions such as pneumonia. Therefore, according to the AARP article, it is becoming increasingly important to prevent the spread of diseases through vaccinations.

As we age, our bodies do not recover as easily as they once did. Our immune systems may not fight off disease as well as they once did. It is up to us to be proactive about our health. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about vaccinations. Keep track of your vaccinations and get the next shot when it’s due.

At the peril of sounding downright germ-a-phobic I carry sanitizer in my bag and car. I use it when I pump gas, use a cart at the store, a menu at a restaurant or anything that has been touched by the general public. I wash all fresh fruits and vegetables. After all, we have no idea who sorted through the apples before us. I keep my vaccinations up-to-date.  And, of course I use one of the best ways known to prevent the spread of germs — I wash my hands!

 

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22 comments on “‘Tis The Season

  1. Kathy – I am with you 100%.. After last winter of having several bouts of respiratory and intestinal flu (one right before my trip to Walt Disney World) when my pharmacist said I could get all four vaccines for free I jumped at the chance.
    For those who haven’t got theirs yet – ask for the HD Quadrivalent Flu vaccine – mine was a FluZone brand- it has four strains of current flu vaccine in high doses. This is recommended for people over 65 – I’m 66.

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  2. My husband and I are both finally on the road to recovery from pneumonia. I had the first part of the pneumonia shot. My husband had both parts of the shot hence a less severe case of pneumonia for him. My advice to everyone is to get the appropriate vaccines they need for their age. The worst part of this has been the debilitating cough and fatigue. Both doctors have said it may not totally prevent the disease but it should lesson your symptoms. Hygiene is the first thing you can do!! The older you are the harder it is to recover.

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    • Yes, the older we are, the harder it is to recover. I am prone to bronchitis and have weathered many bouts of it, but this last one was the worst. You are so correct about the cough and fatigue. The bronchitis itself lasted 2 months, but it took me many more months to get my energy back. Altogether I probably lost half a year. Glad you and your husband are feeling better! K

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  3. Good on you for bringing up the topic of vaccinations. It is important to distinguish between respiratory flu and stomach flu and know that the “flu” vaccine will not offer any protection against the latter. And good on you for bringing up the need for hand washing. Getting a vaccination does not negate the need for personal responsibility when it comes to maintaining health through other means such as hand washing, diet, exercise, rest, etc.

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  4. In addition to a general increase in susceptibility, older people tend to take more medications. I take two meds that lower my resistance to infection. Fortunately I don’t report for work at a large workplace, and my grandchildren are in middle school. I remember when they were toddlers in pre-school, and I caught one thing after another from them! Frequent hand washing is good advice. Lather up and rub!

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    • Good point about the medications Ellen. There are many that cause our natural immune system to be less effective. We also forget how simple hand washing can help keep us healthy. While some diseases are airborne, others linger on our hands, which find their way to our mouths, eyes and noses. And, voila! We get sick.

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  5. After having a serious bout with the flu many years ago, I never miss my annual vaccination. I also had the shingles a long time ago due to an illness that was compromising my immune system (you are right, it is very painful) so I got that vaccine as soon as it was available too. I consider myself quite healthy but I know without a doubt that I’m not invincible. Thanks for the reminder that we all need to remain diligent.

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  6. Great reminders! I’m pretty good with vaccinations, but not so good with cleaning my hands after being in public. That visual you created of handling fruit in the grocery store after being in the bathroom is shocking! Yes, I always wash after using the restroom… but not after touching grocery carts. Definitely need to modify some habits…

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    • Yes being aware is the best defense. I have an even scarier encounter at a big box store where an employee was leaving the rest room without washing her hands. I said, “Aren’t you going to wash your hands?” She said, “Oh I’m not going back to work. I’m going to the lunch room.” I called her manager who was not concerned with her unsanitary behavior!!! I am so careful about what I touch and washing my hands to the point where sometimes I feel like I must be a paranoid nutcase!

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  7. I’m up on vaccinations except for this year’s flu shot which I’ll be getting soon. Always wash my hands after using a restroom. Not so much on other, semi-risky occasions such as at a gas pump or using a grocery cart. Could be I need to re-think this. I rarely get respiratory infections but, at 80+, maybe safer is better. . .

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  8. I enjoy your blog very much.
    I agree that antibiotics can be life saving but we need to be careful about over using antibiotics. We can consume antibiotics from many things other than our doctor’s prescription. Chicken & beef can contain antibiotics. Every time we take a course of antibiotics we kill the friendly bacteria in our gut. Antibacterial hand sanitizers destroy good microbes on your skin. Soap and hot water will do the trick instead of hand sanitizers & antibacterial soaps. I have been reading The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry and he goes into detail about the over use of antibiotics.

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    • That’s a good point Denise. I read an article a couple of years ago by a doctor warning against the use of antibacterial soaps and ointments as well as meat containing antibiotics. My dermatologist has frozen off a couple of pre-cancerous lesions and recommended NOT using antibiotic ointments for healing. I still carry my sanitizer. But, I agree, we need to be cognizant of what we are putting on and in our bodies. We have good bacteria that is essential to our health.

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  9. We try to avoid antibiotics but when they are absolutely essential, the friendly bacteria in our digestive tract can be protected to some extent with probiotics contained in yogurt or probiotic capsules. My husband had a serious infection following oral surgery and had to be on antibiotics recently. In the past he has had unpleasant digestive side effects. He was able to avoid them entirely this time.

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    • Thanks for the information Elizabeth. As someone who had the same stomach upsets after using antibiotics, I agree with you. My husband is a big yogurt eater and when I had issues, I started on the yogurt. I think that’s what did the trick for me, too. We need to get the natural good bacteria going again as antibiotics wipe it out.

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  10. Thank you so much once again, Kathy! Sometimes I feel like a “nutcase” if I talk about what I do to protect myself in public places. I catch bugs easily so need to do so. I also use an essential oil called “Immune Boost” containing Oregano Oil which kills viruses. Additionally, I have found an antibacterial called “Clean and Well” which comes in a pump container and a small pocket or purse sized container that has safer ingredients than others. They also make a hand soap but I understand that washing hands in soap and water for about 30 seconds(???) gets rid of most or all germs. My nieces taught me this: Sing Row, Row, Row your boat twice to come up with the right length of time!!:-) I also take Probiotics and other good supplements to help combat any antibiotic effects on the gut. I buy hormone and antibiotic free meats but my husband keeps forgetting and I ate them for many years so I just hope that eating them less often will help. There is a lot of material out there on self-care and I seek the best balance for myself and remind myself not to act and not worry since the stress of worry doesn’t help any of it!! Thanks again for reminding me and others we might be “normal” in our concerns and that it is truly time for a vaccine!!!
    Peace and Blessings, Melody Romeo

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    • Yes washing hands for 30 seconds in running water will wash off most germs. I sing Happy Birthday to myself to gauge the 30 seconds! You are so correct about the stress worry produces. I try not to stress too much as it can undermine our immune systems by releasing cortisol. Be proactive but don’t obsess over it is a good approach. K

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