Flu shots and respiratory complications from the flu

Parents continue to hear that they should vaccinate their children against the flu, and that they should do so especially if their children have asthma. However, an overlooked detail is that the effectiveness of flu shots in children with asthma has never been proven through research. A newly released study that for the first time evaluates the effectiveness of flu shots in children with asthma reaches very different conclusions. The study analyzed data from the past eight consecutive years and looked at the rate of hospitalization for respiratory complications from the flu among children who were or were not vaccinated and those who had and did not have asthma.

What the study found is nothing short of amazing. Among non-asthmatic children, being vaccinated led to a slightly higher – you read correctly, I didn’t mean lower – rate of hospitalization for complications from the flu. However, among asthmatic children the rate of hospitalization was three times higher for vaccinated children. In other words children were three times more likely to be hospitalized for respiratory complications of the flu if parents followed medical advice and had them vaccinated.

This study is also interesting because in the past few weeks I have been hearing reports of vaccinated children coming down with severe respiratory complications and parents being told their children have swine flu. However, the children are not being tested for swine flu and, considering this study, it would seem that the problem might not be swine flu at all; it might well be the vaccine they received. You can read about the study at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519172045.htm.

So if the vaccine doesn’t help, you might wonder what does. I already covered this topic in my last newsletter, but since then a new study provides more confirmation for one of my recommendations. That study can be found here: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Gastroenterology/InflammatoryBowelDisease/16472

Though it was a mouse study its conclusions are very likely applicable to humans as well. It found that probiotic bacteria stimulate proliferation of certain types of immune cells that increase resistance to disease. In this study mice were either given probiotic bacteria or nothing and were then exposed to various disease agents. The mice that had been given the probiotic either did not become ill at all or had milder forms of the illnesses. Many times the best course of action is not to vaccinate against every possible disease but to strengthen the body’s immune defenses.

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