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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013

Exercise increases the effectiveness of a flu shot



By Clark Howard


The flu shot is something that people often think is either irrelevant in their life or dangerous. Or they think, "Hey, I've gotten the flu before and it was no big deal."

Let me tell you: The flu can be a big deal.

Two years ago, my wife was at death's door with H1N1. She had to be hospitalized for five days and was in grave danger for more than a 24-hour period. At that time, the H1N1 vaccine was only available in limited quantities and she couldn't get it. So the flu almost took down a young, healthy woman for the count.

You think the flu will never happen to you. Maybe it won't. But if it does, it messes with you.

My executive producer Christa hadn't gotten a flu shot in years, though I guilted her into doing it this year. (She routinely gets the shot for her kids on her trusted pediatrician's recommendation.)

Meanwhile, I saw new numbers that close to 50 million Americans have no paid time off (PTO). So if they get sick and need time off, they don't get paid.

Some local communities are trying to mandate PTO. I think that's an infringement on the free market. I believe it should be an employer's prerogative. We don't need government, but we do need business owners to use enlightened self-interest. At least they should have a special provision during a flu contagion to encourage those who are sick to stay away and not infect everybody else.

Here at the studio, we get free flu shots. After I got mine, my arm was pretty sore for several hours. By the next day, that soreness was gone. People are worried they'll get the shot and then get sick. But the most common symptom is a sore arm. Sometimes you'll have little aches or a little fever for a few hours. But as far as severe reaction, that almost never happens.

If your place of work doesn't offer free flu shots, it's usually much cheaper to pay for the shot than to have your co-pay at the doctor's office (or more!) when you get sick.

Finally, a new study out of Iowa State finds that exercise right after a flu shot dramatically increases the efficacy of the flu shot. Exercise apparently triggers the ability in your body to give you much better protection.