Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seasonal flu vaccine for athletes: yes or no?

Today I got my seasonal flu shot which I've taken every year since 2009 due to the amount of traveling that I do with my job. (Full disclosure here: I also work for a company that makes products used in flu vaccine production.) This got me thinking, as it does every year, about the pros and cons of the flu vaccine. As an American, I don't find it strange to get a flu vaccine annually. In fact, the US Center for Disease Control recommends that "everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season." But many of my European colleagues think it strange that someone in their thirties, in good physical condition, would get a flu shot. There are lots of good reasons to get a flu shot or not, and Emily Abbate did a good job of listing 10 flu shot pros and cons last year before flu season kicked in.

But what about people who are training a lot? Are there specific considerations for those people? Well, in fact there is some evidence that moderate-to-high levels of physical activity can impair immune system function and make one more susceptible to catching the flu. And the simple fact that we workout indoors more frequently in the winter, with shared equipment, increases the risk of catching the flu and other colds. There are some simple precautions we can all take to keep gym equipment clean: wipe down equipment after use, wash your hands before and after your workout, and stay home if you're not feeling well.

Of course, a flu shot can't hurt, and it sure beats losing a week of training while you recover. 

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