Preventing Influenza

By Annie Lane

October 20, 2019 4 min read

Dear Annie: I would like to use your column as a platform to urge everyone reading to get a flu shot. I was one of those individuals who always thought that I did not need to get a shot for a variety of reasons: "I am healthy. I wash my hands often and avoid touching my face and never rub my eyes or nose. My good hygiene habits mean I am protected. I haven't gotten the flu in the past 20 years. And doesn't the flu shot give you the flu?"

Well, despite all my good habits, in January of this year I was taken down by the flu. And I mean those words literally. I was bedridden and semiconscious for approximately two days. When I did wake up, it wasn't for very long and I would pass out again. Slowly, I got better, but I ended up losing a full week from work.

After I had recovered, I decided to do more research on the flu shot. It turns out that, no, it does not give you the flu, which I believe to be the biggest misconception out there. As a matter of fact, the flu shot cannot give you the flu, though you may get some mild symptoms such as achy muscles or a low-grade fever.

I got my shot as soon as I could after my recovery and was very happy that I did. It felt empowering. From now on, I will never go without getting a yearly shot. We are entering flu season once again, and I encourage everyone to please, please inoculate yourself. Get educated, and don't be afraid of it. Talk to your doctor/hospital/pharmacist if you have concerns. I am sure they will put your mind at ease. Thank you for allowing me to spread the word. — Nelly in Arizona

Dear Nelly: The flu is nothing to sneeze at. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that an estimated 80,000 people died from the flu and flu-related complications in the 2017-2018 season. People 65 years or older are most at risk, with that age group accounting for 70 to 90% of deaths. I'm glad to publish your plea and encourage readers to go get their flu shot as soon as they're able. Note that Medicare covers the cost of flu vaccines completely, and Medicaid does so for people 50 or older.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Old Man," the 67-year-old who fears what his life will be like in a decade. I am 69 years old and have been a private caregiver for the elderly for the past 20 years. I have enjoyed every moment of my time with these elderly folks! I have learned so much. Go visit the elderly, "Old Man." You will get closer to God and your heart will be joyful! — Linda in Texas

Dear Linda: Thank you for your inspiring letter. There were too many wonderful responses to "Old Man" to not print a couple more. Here's another:

Dear Annie: I am a 68-year-old guy, and in addition to skiing and golf, I am an avid kiteboarder. I have a 76-year-old friend who kiteboards with me.

I heard a great line from an 80-year-old friend: "If I'm not out doing something active every day, I start to rust."

"Old Man" needs to get up and get going. He would feel like a million dollars. Plus, people would most definitely treat him differently if he were to find an activity that challenges him! — Spry Guy

Dear Spry Guy: You are more active than most (including yours truly). Your zip is contagious. Thanks for the burst of energy and optimism!

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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