Health

Doctors’ tricks to make your flu shot work better as virus thrashes the US

From getting vaccinated early, to sleeping it off and avoiding pain medication — there are surprisingly easy hacks to make vaccines work better.

And as the US battles with the biggest flu outbreak in more than a decade, the timing could not be more important.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) says everyone aged six months and older should get the shot this year as a more deadly strain of influenza runs rife in US hospitals.

Studies show getting vaccinated before 11am may increase your immune response as more T cells — immune cells which fight off infection — are around at that time. 

Numerous research papers have shown that having a decent night’s sleep both before and after is also key to bolstering your body’s response, as too little sleep could give you less antibodies.

Refraining from pain medication will also help, as they dampen the very immune response the vaccine is targeting. 

But getting vaccinated in less ideal circumstances is far better than not getting vaccinated at all, doctors have stressed.

Getting jabbed in the morning is the optimum time, research has suggested. At least six hours sleep before and after the vaccine is also important, as is refraining from pain medication

Getting jabbed in the morning is the optimum time, research has suggested. At least six hours sleep before and after the vaccine is also important, as is refraining from pain medication

Confirmed RSV cases reached 12,905 during the week that ended on October 29, while positive test rate reached 18.8 per cent the week ending on November 5

Confirmed RSV cases reached 12,905 during the week that ended on October 29, while positive test rate reached 18.8 per cent the week ending on November 5

Confirmed flu cases reached 13,806 during the week that ended on November 5, a new high for this season and sharp growth from previous weeks

Confirmed flu cases reached 13,806 during the week that ended on November 5, a new high for this season and sharp growth from previous weeks

Elementary in Kansas shuts for three days to ‘disinfect the building’ — with a THIRD of teachers and pupils off sick

An elementary school in Kansas closed for three days this month after being struck by a surge of respiratory illnesses among students and staff.

Christ the King Catholic School, a K-8 school of 250 students and 21 teachers in Kansas City, Kansas, closed on Wednesday 9 after more than 50 children and seven staff members reported illness.

Officials plan to disinfect the building during the days off. It reopened last Monday.

It comes amid a nationwide surge of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that has struck young children the hardest.

Pediatric hospitals across the US are reporting that they are at or near capacity as the uptick of cases overwhelms emergency rooms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,945 new RSV infections during the week that ended on November 5.

This is a massive upward shift from the less than 2,000 cases reported at the start of September.

Just over 1,300 cases of influenza were also reported nationwide that week — up from just a few hundred in August and the highest figure of this flu season so far.

The surge has caused dozens of schools across the country to temporary close due to staffing issues or to prevent further spread of the virus.

Experts had warned that this year’s flu season would be harsher than years past after lockdowns during the pandemic left many people’s immune systems ill-prepared.

These closures for the flu also echo the devastating school policies instituted during the early months of the pandemic.

One study last year from the Sun Yat-sen University hospital in China, on 63 people, showed that those who received a Covid jab between 9am and 11am had a stronger immune response than those who were vaccinated between 3pm and 5pm in the afternoon.

Levels of immune cells vary throughout the day, and Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease physician at the University of California San Francisco, suggested to ABC News that people who are able to get vaccinated in the morning might be better off.

Research in mice has shown that in the morning, genes are activated that produce T cells, as well as producing more molecules used for recognizing antigens.

During the night, the genes create molecules which stop that response. 

A similar thing could be happening in humans.

Many other studies have shown that sleep plays a vital role in vaccine effectiveness.

Researchers from the University of Lübeck in Germany found that sleeping after the Hepatitis A shot doubled the amount of immune cells formed in response to the vaccine.

At least six hours is preferable, a 2012 study found.

Those who slept less than that after they got vaccinated against Hepatitis B were less likely to properly respond to the shot, as they had less antibodies.

Another study found that how well rested you are even days before the shot can influence how much protection it affords you.

Shorter amounts of sleep two days before receiving a flu vaccine led to less antibodies being produced among 83 healthy young adults, even months after vaccination.

Separate research from the Jahrom University of Medical Sciences in Iran backed this up – they found that six out of eight studies they selected found a positive correlation between sleep and immune response post-vaccination.

Dr Jayne Morgan, executive director of health and community education at Piedmont hospital, told DailyMail.com: ‘Sleep is critical to physical health and helps empower the immune system, and so some studies have suggested that vaccine efficacy can be negatively impacted by sleep deprivation.’

But she emphasized: ‘Getting vaccinated in any circumstances is the most important thing of all.’

While you might want to take a painkiller to deal with the after effects of a vaccine, you should avoid taking them beforehand.

Research has suggested that taking medication such as paracetamol and NSAIDs can dampen the body’s antibody response, though scientists are not sure why.

Dr Chin-Hong said it could be because drugs such as Advil can prevent inflammation and lessen the immune system’s ability to respond to a shot.

Dr Morgan told DailyMail.com: ‘The concern with painkillers is that they may curb the very immune response that the vaccine is targeting’, but added that ‘more studies are needed.’

Several pediatric hospitals are already at or near record levels of capacity for this time of year and flu rates are the highest they’ve been since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Experts say the ‘immunity gap’ that emerged during lockdowns, working from home and mask mandates during the Covid outbreak deprived Americans of important exposure to germs that strengthen their immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 7.4 out of every 100,000 Americans 65 or older have been hospitalized with a respiratory illness so far — numbers not usually seen until the depths of winter.

That figure is ten-fold higher than before the pandemic. But the rate is dwarfed by pediatric hospitalizations, with 50.6 out of every 100,000 children 17 or younger admitted for a respiratory bug this season.

The wave is being driven by RSV and the flu – which have come roaring back this year after largely disappearing during the first two years of the Covid pandemic.

RSV usually causes just a mild cold in more people, but the virus can be especially harmful to young children. The CDC reports around 500 pediatric deaths from it each year.

The CDC reported 7,945 new RSV infections during the week that ended on November 5, the most recent data available. Confirmed RSV cases reached a peak during the week that ended on October 29, with 12,905 infections, a massive upward shift from the less than 2,000 cases reported at the start of September.

Just over 1,300 cases of influenza were also reported nationwide that week — up from just a few hundred in August and the highest figure of this flu season so far. Both figures are huge underestimates because the viruses are not tested for on the same scale as Covid.

Southern states have been struck the hardest by the surge. All of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are reporting ‘very high’ levels of flu activity according to the CDC.


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