Of Pigs and Kids; Eliminating Fear
I continue to get questions from concerned parents who are being pressured by pediatricians and family doctors to get the young ones vaccinated for the flu, seasonal du jour and swine. The two questions we most want answered are, “should we be worried about the flu?” and, “should we get the vaccine?” I personally believe that fear, though motivating, is a poor way from which to make sound health decisions. Much of medical care today uses this tactic to motivate (in some cases manipulate) people to action. Though it may be difficult to eliminate all fear, especially when you are a parent, it’s important to not let it be your sole motive in seeking a given course of action. I have found from personal experience with my own children that often the best course of action is patience and thoughtful consideration. Gut instinct is useful; my wife is especially gifted in this. If you sense something is wrong with the advice to medicate or vaccinate for every infectious concern, you’d be wise to heed that premonition. We can debate the risk/benefit of vaccines in general, but there are clear insights that are coming to light about the flu in general and the current ’09 H1N1.
Number one, it is indisputable that the virulence (severity) of this flu virus has been overestimated. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, public health entities and reporting media continue to act as if the “sky is falling.” The death rate for the H1N1 is no worse (in some cases lower) than past seasonal flu rates. Since August the CDC has stopped confirmatory testing for the swine flu, now using the criteria of “assumed to be the main circulating flu-like illness.” In reality, actual state statistics indicate that the vast majority of flu-like illnesses are actually NOT the flu, let alone H1N1. This alone means we can all take a deep breath and think about how de-stressing can improve immune function. In addition, most bad outcomes from the flu are due to pre-existing conditions and secondary infections like pneumonia. There is evidence that taking medications like Tamiflu or Tylenol may actually increase one’s risk for complications.
Secondly, does it make sense to get the vaccine? It’s too early to see what impact the new H1N1 vaccine will ultimately have. Unfortunately, with very little actual testing for H1N1 we may never fully know. What I do know is the following: The seasonal flu vaccine has NOT been shown to benefit children less than two years of age. Some studies actually show more flu-like illness for these young ‘uns who’ve been vaccinated for the flu. In addition, the benefits to older children and adults are very mixed. There is ample evidence of the harm and lack of efficacy that may come from some vaccines. Sadly this is the research your pediatrician is unaware of and gets left out of the evening news. It’s not that it isn’t legitimate; it just doesn’t fit with current public health policies; the golden calf of prevention is vaccination, end of story! The toxic and “immune irritating” ingredients in many vaccines will universally cause harm. It is difficult to measure the full impact. Those most at risk are those to whom vaccines are most pushed, pregnant woman and babies. Did you know that doctors and their families as a group are some of the least vaccinated in our society? Many are aware of the evidence of harm and believe the “benefits DO NOT outweigh the risks.”
Unfortunately there is no magic shot to protect us from all harm. What is actually protective is to nurture ourselves as intended by our Designer. The immune system thrives when allowed to mature without excessive insult, or malnutrition. The main reason for poor health in kids is due to poor dietary habits. There are epidemic deficiencies such as vitamin D. Couple that with wide spread sleep insufficiency in both kids and adults and it’s no wonder we are getting sick more. There is a human tendency to underestimate the effects of our own actions and overestimate the benefits of medical interventions. If we took half of all the fuss and money directed at vaccination and instead put it towards building personal wellness through good habits, we’d see dramatic changes in the health of society.
Recently I’ve put together the Four S’s of avoiding colds and the flu; two to do, and two to avoid.
1. Get appropriate sleep. Many adults aren’t and many parents under estimate the sleep requirements of their children.
2. Get sunshine or ensure adequate blood levels of vitamin D. This is essential. It’s estimated that up to 70% of some populations are deficient. You must get tested to figure out how much you need. If you avoid the sun, you need to supplement and it’s likely you need more than is in your “One A Day.”
3. Avoid too much stress. Chronic stress suppresses your immune system.
4. Avoid sugar. This isn’t the stuff found naturally in fresh fruit; we are talking about the gobs of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup now in everything!
There are many remedies to help you when you do get sick that will not suppress your immunity, from herbal teas to healthy broths. For many there are health challenges that need to be dealt with, from thyroid and other hormonal imbalances to food and environmental allergies. Next time your doctor recommends a vaccine or medication, consider that there is another way; one that is directed at the root cause and truly seeks to “first do no harm.”