Question: My husband says he does not want the flu vaccine this year. He experienced some side effects from his COVID-19 booster, so now he is convinced the same thing will happen if he receives a flu shot. He has several chronic medical conditions, which makes me concerned about his welfare. If I can’t change his mind, is there anything I can do to help protect him?
Answer: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the best way to reduce the risk of seasonal influenza is to get vaccinated. If your husband does not get a flu shot, you can still take steps to help prevent him from becoming infected.
The CDC defines influenza as a contagious respiratory illness affecting the nose, throat, and lungs. Its symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, and, especially in children, vomiting and diarrhea. Although the flu is not the same as COVID-19, experts suggest following similar guidelines to protect against contracting it. They state you should avoid contact with anyone who is sick. Likewise, if either of you becomes ill, limit contact with your spouse and others as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze and throw away tissues after use. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. These suggestions seem simple, but it is surprising how often we touch these parts of our faces or reuse tissues and then touch—and quickly contaminate—all sorts of surfaces throughout our environment.
Health officials recommend we wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when out in public. Think of the surfaces we all touch, such as the screens at self-checkout counters, gas station pumps, doors on public buildings, seats on subways and buses, even the money we use when shopping. At home, they stress cleaning and disinfecting surfaces on a regular basis, including phones, both landlines and cell phones. Cleaning your car is a good idea as well, including the steering wheel and door handles.
As always, physicians recommend getting a good night’s sleep, eating nutritious food, and drinking plenty of fluids—all ways to maintain a healthy immune system that can fight infection. If your husband has a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, his healthcare provider may recommend antiviral drugs as an appropriate option. Ask your husband’s physician whether this option is advisable for him. Stay well!