I have RA. Should I get a flu shot?

I’ve seen this question pop up all over the Internet these last several months. I’ve asked the question myself. But it was only today that I discovered, while perusing the weekly Centers for Disease Control (CDC) H1N1 Flu Update I get by email, that CDC now has instructions aimed specifically at those of us whose immune systems are suppressed by disease or medications, or both.

The answer? Yes. Absolutely get the H1N1 (swine) flu shot just as soon as it’s available through your rheumatologist or primary csymptoms_of_swine_flu_svgare physician. Get the normal, seasonal flu shot, too.You’re at a much higher risk for complications from either or both flu types.

However, do NOT get the type of vaccine that has the live virus in it. Only get the type with the dead virus. Be careful. Ask before you get jabbed. This is important, as your body might not be able to fight off the live virus and you could possibly get sick.

According to the CDC, “Medications that can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of influenza-related complications include corticosteroids, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biological response modifiers.” Lots of us who fight the day-by-day battle with rheuma take these medications. They help us battle the disease but leave our bodies far more vulnerable to infections, both viral and bacterial.

“Although the exact type and severity of immune dysfunction that correlates with risk of influenza-associated complications has not been well defined, patients with more severe immunosuppression are predisposed to serious complications such as prolonged or increased severity of illness,” states the CDC on its website.

If you have any of the following rheumatological diseases:
•Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
•Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
•Psoriatic arthritis
•Anti-phospholipid syndrome
•Polymyalgia rheumatica
•Systemic sclerosis/scleroderma
•Sjögren’s syndrome
•Vasculitis (e.g., giant cell arteritis)
•Necrotising arteritis
•Polyarteritis nodosa
be sure to get both the seasonal and swine flu shots as soon as they’re available in your area.

H1N1 (swine) flu is widespread all over the United States now. Take precautionary measures to prevent yourself from catching or spreading the flu:

–Try to avoid contact with people who have the flu.
–Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, or with antibacterial gel.

Symptoms of the flu may include:
•fever *
•sore throat
•runny or stuffy nose
•body aches
•sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

If you develop flu-like symptoms:
•Contact your healthcare provider.
•Avoid contact with others. Seek medical care early. You should stay home and avoid travel, including not going to work or school, until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or necessities. Your fever should be gone without using fever-reducing medications.
•If you leave the house to seek medical care, wear a facemask, if available and tolerable, and cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
•Do not stop taking any medicine you take for your arthritis unless told to do so by your physician.
•Seek medical attention early. Treatment is available for persons with severe disease and those at high risk for complications. Persons with inflammatory rheumatic disease are considered high risk for complications from the flu; therefore, your health care provider may choose to prescribe antiviral medications for you if you get the flu.
•If you are exposed to someone who has flu, consult your health care provider.  They may prescribe medication to help prevent you from getting the flu or watch you closely to see if you develop flu symptoms.

Note: People with osteoarthritis are likely not at increased risk for influenza-related complications unless they also have another high risk condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

For more information, visit the CDC website page specific to those with rheumatalogical diseases: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/arthritis_clinicians.htm

For more general information about the H1N1 flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/general_info.htm

Here’s hoping that all of us stay strong and healthy throughout the 2009/10 flu season.

8 thoughts on “I have RA. Should I get a flu shot?

  1. I get the regular flu shot every year after being diagnosed with RA.

    On my last visit to my rheumatologist, I was told not to get the first round (the one that you sniff) of the H1N1 flu shot … it has the live virus, to wait for the second round that is an injection.


  2. Thanks for posting this! I found it very useful.

    I spoke with my rheumatologist this morning and she said I can go ahead and get the shot as soon as it’s available to me. In Canada, we only have one type – the shot – and no live vaccine nasal spray, so I can get it right away.

    It looks like I’m not in the priority group for my city next week, though, so I’ll still have to wait a while.


  3. One word of caution….check with your rheumy before you get the flu shots. I just had my rituxan and was told to wait for 6 weeks after the dose to get any vaccinations.


  4. I must be one of the few who do NOT accept this pandemic. The mercury levels are 3X higher than any other flu vaccine made to date. With that in mind, my sister who has RA, said that she quit taking flu shots because it made her worse and complicated her treatments. But I am only a voice for healthy living, herbal remedies and alternative. My opinion is only my own, not meant to intimidate those who feel safe with flu shots.


  5. My favorite advisor is Dr. Bruce West who has written his thinking and endless reasons why NOT to have any flu shots ever in his breathtaking bulletin, Health Alert. – Electric 141


  6. I have read many times…that the vaccinations have killed more people than they have saved. Who knows? I did read in several NaturalNews e-mails that the Swine Flu vaccines are dangerous, and like maboggie, they mentioned the dangerous levels of mercury. Here is one article that I sent to my siblings some months ago:

    Bad batch proves shots not safe

    Let’s stop pretending: There’s no way in hog heaven these swine flu vaccines are safe.

    Need more proof? Look north – at least one Canadian is dead and dozens of others are recovering from severe allergic reactions to the vaccine.

    Many of those cases were linked to GlaxoSmithKline’s Arepanrix swine flu vaccine, which prompted a recall of 172,000 doses. But by the time word got out, all but 15,000 had been used.

    If you already rolled up your sleeve in Canada – too bad. Just be glad you’re still alive to read about it.

    Plenty of victims have suffered from anaphylaxis, a potentially deadly reaction that includes breathing problems, low blood pressure and swelling of the throat, tongue, lips and eyes.

    Arepanrix appears to be especially bad — even by the low standards of poorly tested swine flu vaccines. GlaxoSmithKline’s own data shows that more that 1 in 10 patients experience pain, headache, fatigue, swelling, shivering, sweating, aching muscles and joint pain. And 1 in 10 will develop diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, fever, feeling sick, bruising and itching.

    We’re facing a pandemic all right – but it’s not from the flu. If they succeed in poking everyone, the real health crisis will come from all those bad drug reactions.

    Recently, I told you about the patients who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after their swine flu shots, and some people who even keeled over after getting these “safe” vaccines. Click here to read “Swine flu swindle in full swing.”

    I mean c’mon – they’re playing us for saps, and we’re falling for it. So far, 22 million Americans have been conned into lining up for these dangerous needles like parents camped out at a store for a hot Christmas toy.

    But at least we know the crummy economy won’t dampen the holiday spirits of one group of elites living high on the hog: Big Pharma fat cats and their accomplice docs who distribute these shots like candy canes at a Christmas party.

    Merry Christmas, and a $15 co-pay, please.


  7. Hi,

    This is a great article I have Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis, FM, ++ so I have faithfully gotten my flu shot every year. About 4 years ago I got the standard flu shot and I had a bit of a reaction, a pea sized lump appeared that was a bit sore…However I ignored it up until last year when I noticed it was getting bigger…seems it was a reaction to the flu shot and I had it surgically removed, the surgeon told me he had only seen this once before. This year I was diligent and got my N1H1 and I develloped a lump and hive like lumps down the arm that had the shot. Late Dec. I got the normal flu shot and within 24 hours the redness from my shot was all the way around my arm from the shoulder down my upper arm and another LUMP!!

    I went to my family Dr who was fairly alarmed at my reation and said maybe I was alergic to eggs…I told him no way as I eat eggs regularly…so I will be seeiing an allergist who will test me for all the standards plus every component of the 2 types of flu shots…plus no more flu shots for me… That however really scares me because I am on many meds including Methotrexate and Enbrel…. I will let you know how the allergist appointment goes.

    Take care and avoid germs



  8. Its when I got my first flu shot was when I first experience arthrtis! I felt the flu shot brought the arthritis on as those germs attacked my immune system! I was so sick and for 6 months after I got that flu shot! They told me it was not a Live virus, but was told after I recieved the injection, that the virus is alway live! They just tell you its dead to make you feel less incline to reject the injection! So I no longer get a flu shot! I will take my chances at getting the flu! Because I feel each time you get something injected into your body your immune system is being attacked! Why do it? Each time you get something introduced into your body your immune system is being hit again and again! Injecting something oinferior or superior to your immune system still arouses an alarm in your immune system and it reacts sometimes for the better soemtimes for the worst! These GERMS or viruses are harming the DNA as it enters your body and each time it is attacked it affects your body while it is still floating freely inside your body , and its attacking your body! There is no level of safety as I see it! Its a time bomb waiting to flare up! Its not natural to strike at your own immune system with these artificial bugs!

    I feel its one way the Government is killing off the weak! By injectig them with germs! True Germ warfare!


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