Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)

Wednesday

Are flu shots safe for people with multiple sclerosis?



Should MSers have flu shots?

Flu shots have become a perennial preventative public tradition across the United States, particularly with the approach of autumn and the upcoming winter peak flu season. Physicians often advise elderly patients, pregnant women, long-term care residents, health care workers, and those with chronic medical conditions to obtain flu shots to prevent possible influenzaoccurrences.

Is the flu shot for everyone?

Individuals with fevers, egg allergies, and past flu shot reactions are generally advised not to receive flu shots.

Administered by injection, flu shots introduce dead forms of flu viruses, boosting recipients’ own immune systems to gear up to fight potential infection. Most individuals reach optimum flu immunity within two weeks after receiving a flu shot.

MSers should skip the nasal mist flu shot.

The nasal mist flu shot generally contains live flu virus and is not advisable to multiple sclerosis patients.

Recently, neurological researchers have questioned the wisdom of flu shots for patients with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and other neurological diseases. The main question is mercury.

Do flu shots contain mercury?

Each year, patients line up in clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals and pharmacies to receive flu shots. Folks even show up for free flu shots (or low-cost flu shots) in grocery stores, local health department offices and pharmacies.

Basically, most public flu shots have contained small amounts of several current influenza viruses, in pre-killed form, along with a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal, which is about 50% ethylmercury, has been used in producing flu shots since the 1930s. Since 1999, the U.S. government has asked for the removal of thimerosal from flu shots, but the vast majority of influenza inoculations still contain the mercury-based preservative.

Some flu shots may contain only trace amounts of thimerosal, but it may be difficult for patients to determine this on site, while waiting for a free flu shot or a public flu shot.

Although many medical experts claim that the thimerosal quantities are too low to pose health risks, others contend that they can indeed be dangerous to susceptible individuals, such as those with MS.

Why is mercury potentially harmful to multiple sclerosis patients?

Medical researchers have hypothesized that mercury poisoning may be linked to MS. Whether mercury poisoning actually causes multiple sclerosis is unproven. Mercury poisoning has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, bulimia, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

Certainly, the symptoms of mercury poisoning may mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Mercury is one of the few potentially dangerous compounds that can actually cross the blood-to-brain barrier and cause central nervous system harm, particularly to patients with multiple sclerosis or other neurological diseases. The human body cannot efficiently flush away mercury, as it can many other potential toxins.

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Should multiple sclerosis patients have flu shots?

Doctors vary on the question of flu shots for MS patients. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder. For this reason, MSers may be advised to take precautions (both hygienic and pharmaceutical) against influenza and other infections.

The reason for this is simple. Once a MS patient’s infection-fighting capabilities are awakened (as to fight a case of the flu), the antibodies may go into essential overdrive and begin to attack the myelin in the central nervous system.

Essentially, the body’s own disease-fighting mechanism can lead to a multiple sclerosis exacerbation, relapse or episode.

Many MSers regularly participate in immunomodulation therapies (taking medications such as Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, or Tysabri). These drugs actually modulate the body’s own immune system. As a result, MS patients may find themselves particularly susceptible to influenza and other infections.

On the other hand, MS patients are advised to abstain from flu shots during multiple sclerosis exacerbations or episodes. Also, the nasal mist flu shot (containing live flu viruses) is not recommended for multiple sclerosis (M.S.) patients.

MSers need to check with their own personal neurologists or MS specialists before lining up for free flu shots or obtaining flu shots anywhere else.


Image/s:
Adapted from Nurse Giving a Shot - ClipArtHeaven

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this with me, these are all things I was not aware of, especially for those suffering from MS. Had a fever recently so not sure if I should get the shot and how long I need to wait till I do. Will be calling my physician tomorrow to find out.

    Leonardo @ U.S. Healthworks Medical Group

    ReplyDelete

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