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Feeling lonely? You’re not alone – and it could be affecting your physical health

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Loneliness has long been recognized as being bad for a person’s mental health, but research is now showing it can also be physically harmful.

“We know now it not only affects their quality of life, but the length of it too,” says Ami Rokach, a psychologist at Toronto’s York University who has studied loneliness for more than 30 years.

Beyond causing heightened rates of depression, anxiety and irritability, loneliness is now being associated with potentially life-shortening health issues such as higher blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Some experts have gone as far as to argue that being lonely for a prolonged period of time is more harmful to a person’s health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Rokach adds that the associated stigma often prevents those experiencing intense loneliness from seeking help.

“People think if they admit they are lonely it means people don’t want to be with them.”

It’s a global problem. In the U.K., the situation has become so pressing the government there has appointed a loneliness minister to tackle the issue.

In Canada, studies have found that one in five Canadians identify as being lonely.

Part of the issue is that more and more Canadians are living alone — 28 per cent of households, according to recent numbers by Statistics Canada.

Higher rates of divorce, stronger dependence on technology and sprawling urbanization have also been been credited as contributing factors to loneliness.

But regardless of the reasons why it occurs, the consensus is that it’s happening and the results are damaging.

There are also different ways to address it. The National spoke to several Canadians about the impact loneliness has had on their lives, and the strategies they’ve developed to deal with it.


Marci O’Connor

Marci O’Connor has felt intense bouts of loneliness ever since she was a child, even when people she’s close to are around. She says talking to a therapist about how she was feeling changed how she thinks about loneliness. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Marci O’Connor, 47, is recently divorced and works as a freelance writer. She lives in Montreal with her two sons when they aren’t with their father.

O’Connor is the last person many would think of as lonely.

Her social life is full. She works in a busy office with co-workers she likes. And she has friends and family she regularly visits in Toronto.

Yet she has experienced such intense feelings of loneliness that she’s sought counselling.

“I think it’s probably always been there,” she says. “It’s just a matter of not feeling connected enough to people in those ways where I could reach out for help or support or whatever it may be.”

O’Connor says her feelings of being lonely first started when she was a child and her parents divorced. As an adult she married and moved to a small town with her husband, and there her life revolved around family and raising her two sons.​

She says throughout that period, even surrounded by people, there were times when she felt familiar pangs of emotion. Not until recently, though, has O’Connor managed to put a name to what she was feeling and talk about it openly.

“I guess it’s a shameful feeling,” she explains.

“I’m not alone. I have my mom and my brother, who I’m close with, and I have my kids who I spend as much time as possible with. So I think I almost felt, like, where did that feeling come from and what does it say about these other relationships I have with people? That in spite of having them in my life, I feel lonely?”

After O’Connor and her husband separated, she says the isolation she felt was overwhelming.

“I just felt so alone and so vulnerable,” she says. “I was drowning at first, and that’s probably a normal feeling for the time, but instead of reaching out, I just pushed back. I just went my own way. I was just so busy trying to survive or tread water that I couldn’t reach out to people.”

If I was to talk about grief, people would nod and understand and sympathize, but loneliness is just this horrible word still.– Marci O’Connor

When she was finally ready to reach out, O’Connor says many of her friendships had disappeared, That’s when she started working hard to find ways to fight her feelings of loneliness.

She joined a gym and signed up for group fitness classes rather than hiking by herself as she used to.

She started taking her dog to an off-leash dog park where she could mingle with other dog owners, rather than going for long walks alone.

She also turned to therapy. She says talking with someone about how she was feeling changed how she thought about loneliness.

“We’re not used to talking about it,” O’Connor says. “We’re not used to using that word and if you do there is a stigma … if I was to talk about grief people would nod and understand and sympathize, but loneliness is just this horrible word still.”

O’Connor has now learned to allow her loneliness to guide her to new possibilities. Last year, she even applied to the navy in an attempt to find a community she could call her own. Though she ultimately didn’t make the cut, she says the experience pushed her out of her comfort zone and showed her that she can use her emotions as a motivator to improve her life.

“I can’t change the loneliness, but the choice I have is just to sort of breathe and accept it and say ‘OK, what can I do now — it’s there, what can I do now?”

Marci O’Connor, 47, lives with her sons in Montreal. She has struggled with feelings of loneliness all her life despite a number of close family and social relationships, and says admitting it is very difficult. 0:29

Melvina Alderson

Melvina Alderson, a senior who lives alone, signed up for a program called Keeping Connected that pairs volunteers with seniors for weekly check-in phone calls. ‘Every Thursday I look forward to that phone call,’ she says. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Loneliness does not discriminate by age. Researchers have shown it affects people in all demographics.

However, recent census data shows 25 per cent of seniors live alone, and loneliness does hit this demographic particularly hard. In seniors, loneliness has been linked to dementia, social isolation and a shortened lifespan.

Melvina Alderson, 73, lives alone in Brampton, Ont. She has family nearby, but often spends her days alone and finds the silence so difficult that she works hard to mask it.

“I’ll turn music on. I usually have music on all the time,” she says. “It’s like you’re not alone, because you’ve got voices and singing and it’s one of the best ways to get rid of depression.”

In addition to having music blaring in her one-bedroom apartment practically around the clock, Alderson also goes to great lengths to ensure that she’s rarely alone. She volunteers for her local legion branch several times a week and helps with things like staffing the branch’s poppy stand at the mall near her home, putting in eight hour days in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.

“Oh, the busier I am the better I am, and the happier I am, because I’m not sitting around doing nothing,” she explains.

Sometimes it feels like no one cares, but when I feel that way it’s time to pull up my socks and go and do something where someone appreciates what I’m doing.– Melvina   Alderson

On the days Alderson isn’t volunteering for the legion, she runs the food bank program at her building, sorting through dozens of pounds of food donated through The Knight’s Table and doling it out to residents who need it.

Alderson also signed up for a program called Keeping Connected that pairs volunteers with seniors for weekly check-in phone calls. Alderson gets her calls on Thursday mornings and says they go a long way to helping her cope with being alone.

“Every Thursday I look forward to that phone call,” she says. “It’s a connection, and when you find a connection like that it’s great because you’re not lonely.”

Even with all her coping strategies, though, Alderson admits the loneliness doesn’t always abate.

“It comes in different waves, it’s not always all the time,” she says.

“Sometimes it feels like no one cares, but when I feel that way it’s time to pull up my socks and go and do something where someone appreciates what I’m doing. But, yeah, it can be devastating, especially if it’s a long period of time or at special times of the year.”

Melvina Alderson, 73, lives alone in Brampton, Ont. She’s struggled with loneliness, but has developed some strategies to manage the impact it has on her life. 0:12

Angelo Cariati

When Fifth Grader Sukhkaran Pandher, left, feels lonely, he says he goes to his school’s new ‘friendship bench’ to find someone to talk to. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Homestead Public School in Brampton, Ont., prides itself on going further than most schools in making sure its students feel welcome and supported.

It’s a big school, with more than 800 students and a large immigrant population. It has a newcomers club and a recess buddy program. And it recently made an addition educators hope will help new kids feel less lonely when they arrive.

“One of our ideas to help kids was pursuing a friendship bench,” says Angelo Cariati, the school’s vice-principal. “It’s tangible, it’s proactive and the children can go there if they need a friend or somebody to talk to.”

The bench sits in the school’s atrium. The idea is that kids who are feeling lonely or upset sit on it, and that act alone is an invitation for someone else to sit down beside them and strike up a conversation.

Already, Cariati has heard of several instances where exactly that has happened.

One day last month, right before recess, Fifth Grader Sukhkaran Pandher says he sat on the bench — and what happened next was amazing. Within minutes a girl sat down beside him and asked him what was wrong and why he was alone.

Pandher was lonely and was also being bullied by an older student.

“I didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “I just kept it to myself.”

But the bench changed that.

“Now there was this girl sitting here and she was nice … I told her everything.”

It’s a good thing that I can have somewhere to share my problems with someone.– Sukhkaran   Pandher

Cariati says this incident is exactly why his school pushed so hard to get the bench, a process that included a fundraising initiative.

“You couldn’t have planned that,” he says. “It’s a child who instantly felt a connection with what came out of the bench, so now I know as an educator ‘wow that’s great, we do have a tool there.'”

Cariati adds that now he can follow up to make sure Pandher is “going home feeling safe and coming back to school feeling safe.”

Cariati is well aware of the impact of children feeling lonely at school, including how it leads to low self esteem and children taking fewer risks. He says his school is committed to making sure issues like these get dealt with head-on.

For his part, Pandher says he now feels he has somewhere to turn to that he didn’t before.

“It’s really nice, and it’s a good thing that I can have somewhere to share my problems with someone,” he says.

Angelo Cariati, the vice-principal at Homestead Public School in Brampton, Ont., describes the success the school is seeing with its friendship-bench initiative to help fight loneliness among students. 0:44

More from CBC

Watch The National’s story on the health effects of loneliness and how people are learning to manage it:

One in five Canadians identify themselves as lonely, something that is more than just a feeling we sometimes have in our lowest moments. It’s been described as an epidemic, and some say it is killing us. Feelings of loneliness have been linked to a higher risk for depression, anxiety, dementia, heart disease and diabetes. Ioanna Roumeliotis gives us an in-depth look into this world, and the people who are fighting to escape it. 12:34


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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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