One of the known potential side effects of flu shots is joint pain and muscle aches, but it should be noted that catching the flu can also cause increased joint pain in people with arthritis. An honest cost-benefit analysis leads most people to determine it’s better in the long run to get the vaccine and avoid the potential complications of the flu rather than avoid the flu vaccine for fear of temporary joint pain or muscle aches.
If you’re worried about the effects of the flu or the flu vaccine on your arthritis, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. They can explain the benefits and any risks that may influence your decision.
Is Catching the Flu a Serious Risk for People with Arthritis?
It can be, but risk varies on a case-by-case basis. The flu is a viral illness that can cause fever, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain, which can be especially problematic for people with arthritis. Having the flu can cause a flare-up of joint pain and swelling, both of which can make living with and managing arthritis symptoms more difficult.
The flu also weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections, some of which may cause further damage to joints. This is especially true for older people.
Different types of arthritis can affect people of all ages, but it most commonly manifests in people between the ages of 40 and 60. The CDC estimates that roughly 50 percent of adults over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with arthritis. It’s a condition that tends to affect older people at higher rates; the same demographic that is also at particularly high risk for serious flu complications.
As people age, their immune systems become weaker, making them more vulnerable to infections like the flu. Additionally, many elderly people have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, that can increase the risk of complications from the flu (like pneumonia).
Although increased joint pain and swelling can be unpleasant for arthritis sufferers, it’s often one of the lower-risk complications of the flu in terms of overall health impact and long-term wellness.
The increased risk of complications is why it’s so important for older adults to take necessary steps to reduce their risk of catching the flu, including getting a flu shot every year. The flu shot is a safe and effective way to reduce the possibility of getting sick and can help prevent serious complications.
Those around people with arthritis, including family members and caregivers, should also take the necessary steps to decrease the likelihood that they will catch or spread the flu. In addition to getting the annual flu vaccine, they should also wash their hands regularly and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
These precautions can decrease the risk that older adults, especially those with arthritis and immunodeficiencies, are optimally shielded from the flu.
What Can People with Arthritis do to Protect Their Health During Flu Season?
Diet: Your diet can have a significant impact on your immune system’s ability to protect you. A diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein can help protect the integrity of your immune system.
Hydration: Proper hydration is important for the entire body, including the functioning of your immune system.
Sleep: Getting too little or too much sleep may weaken your body’s immune system. Between seven and nine hours is often the ideal range for most people.
Exercise: Regular physical activity can bolster your immune system and help you ward off seasonal infections.
Avoid Stress: Some people are susceptible to stress-induced immune system issues, especially if their immune system is already compromised by age or a preexisting condition. Minimizing stress may help your immune system stay healthy.
Don’t Smoke: Smoking may make it harder for your body to fight off infections.
Multivitamins: Speak with your doctor about your nutrition and ask if they would recommend a multivitamin, especially if you’re concerned about your immune health during flu season.
Are You Looking for Help Managing Joint Pain?
The Roseburg orthopedists at Centennial Orthopedic Podiatry have extensive experience helping patients manage their arthritis pain. If your joint pain seems to be getting worse or you’re looking for better ways to manage arthritis symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact our team. Call us at 541.229.2663 to schedule an appointment.