The Flu: A Normal Illness

Influenza, or the flu, is a normal illness triggered by a virus that can sometimes lead to mild or severe symptoms such as fever, chills, sore throat, headache, body aches, fatigue, cough and occasionally nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While colds and flus can bring on similar symptoms, typically a mid-to-high fever, body aches, fatigue and exhaustion are signs your child has the flu and not a cold. In general, flu symptoms come on faster and more intensely than cold symptoms and may take longer to resolve – typically 3 to 10 days.

The Flu Vaccine: The Prevailing Approach to Preventing or Lessening the Impact of the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all persons 6 months of age and older. A flu vaccine causes the body to develop antibodies with the idea that it will protect against infection from the three to four virus strains that are contained in the shot that season.

Below is some information to consider when evaluating the efficacy of the flu shot.

Some Flu Vaccines Still Contain Thimerosal, Greater Than Trace Amounts

A trace amount is defined as 1 microgram (mcg) or less. Flu vaccines with thimerosal contain 25 mcg of mercury. (Ingredients can be found in each flu vaccine’s package insert.)

The CDC and mainstream media outlets claim thimerosal is safe. However, many other organizations, scientists and doctors claim it is not, and worse, can be harmful to a child’s health and development.

The article Dispelling Myths Regarding the Use of Thimerosal in Vaccines by The World Mercury Project provides an in-depth, science-backed, easy-to-understand response to many of the claims made by the mainstream about the safety of thimerosal. For example, some insist that our bodies easily eliminate thimerosal, that it does not build up in our bodies because it is quickly removed from the blood and excreted via our waste. The World Mercury Project explains how this is false:

Thimerosal does leave the blood stream faster than methylmercury, but that is because it more quickly moves into the tissue and organs in the body than methylmercury.  A 2005 study funded by the National Institutes of Health compared brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to injected ethylmercury (thimerosal) and equal amounts of ingested methylmercury. In this study, ethylmercury exposure resulted in twice as much inorganic mercury in the brains of the infant monkeys compared to those exposed to methylmercury. … Exposures to mercury during … critical periods of development disrupt the growth and migration of neurons, with the potential to cause irreversible damage to the central nervous system.”

In addition to the resources at The World Mercury Project, to help you make a truly informed decision about thimerosal, we suggest reading Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s book “Thimerosal, Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury-a Known Neurotoxin-from Vaccines.”

There are flu shots that do not contain thimerosal. This can be confirmed by reading the ingredients in the vaccine package insert.

doctor with blue gloves holding vaccine vial

The Flu Vaccine Contains Other Questionable Ingredients

“Antibiotics (aminoglycosides), detergents (triton X-100 and sodium deoxycholate), hydrocortisone, monosodium glutamate (MSG), polysorbate 80, sucrose, thimerosal (mercury) and gelatin.” (, 2011). These are some of the ingredients found in flu vaccines.

Formaldehyde is another ingredient found in flu vaccines which many say is harmless. However, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, MD provides facts that indicate otherwise:

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that formaldehyde is immediately dangerous to life and health at 20 ppm (parts per million).[26] All injectable influenza vaccines have measurable amounts of formaldehyde. Listed on the package inserts as “micrograms per dose,” a conversion reveals that influenza vaccines can contain 50 to 200ppm of formaldehyde. The detractors from this argument will cite evidence that the body makes formaldehyde, but this is an invalid comparison. An injection in micrograms/ml concentration is not comparable to the natural and widely dispersed production in nanogram quantities of formaldehyde-like hydrocarbons within the body. The human body makes highly-acidic stomach secretions, stool and bile. It is a natural occurrence in a natural location. Injecting these secretions into a muscle would not have the same benign effect. There are no published studies that examine the outcome of injecting 50-200ppm of formaldehyde year after year. (, 2011)

According to Dr. Suzanne Humphries, “All of these substances can be dangerous and toxic – especially when injected.”

Death and Hospitalization Have Been Associated with the Flu and the Flu Vaccine

Many people want to know how many deaths, hospitalizations and disabilities resulted from the flu and how many resulted from the flu vaccine with the idea that the option causing the least damage is evidence that it’s the safest choice for them. Besides the fact that this approach does not consider a person’s specific health circumstances, these statistics are at best estimates and the systems that are used to determine them have significant shortcomings.

While the CDC does provide statistics on the number of flu deaths each year, they also acknowledge that they do “not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year.”  A read through of the page where the CDC explains why this is the case highlights the complexity of the calculation making it clear that their statistics are very rough estimates. Additionally, there are other concerns such as how the CDC defines ‘death by the flu’ which can greatly skew the data. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) provides a detailed explanation of this and other issues that call into question the reliability of flu-death statistics.

With respect to damage from the flu vaccine, the NVIC notes that “Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of June 30, 2016, there have been more than 128,194 reports of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following influenza vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 1,270 related deaths, 10,780 hospitalizations, and 2,377 related disabilities.” The issue with these statistics is that VAERS is a passive reporting system – it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to the CDC and FDA – which can result in both in underreporting and at times incomplete reporting.

While vaccine manufacturers do not disclose statistics in their vaccine inserts, they do list reactions. Most inserts have a section that indicates reactions that have been reported after the flu vaccine was approved, sometimes called “Postmarketing Experience.”

These are the experiences some people have had after receiving this flu vaccine:

Immune system disorders: Hypersensitivity reactions (including throat and/ or mouth edema). In rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions have led to anaphylactic shock and death.

Cardiovascular disorders: Vasculitis (in rare cases with transient renal involvement), presyncope, syncope shortly after vaccination.

Digestive disorders: Diarrhea; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain.

Blood and lymphatic disorders: Local lymphadenopathy; thrombocytopenia (some very rare cases were severe with platelet counts less than 5,000 per mm3).

Metabolic and nutritional disorders: Loss of appetite.

Musculoskeletal: Arthralgia; myalgia; myasthenia.

Nervous system disorders: Headache; dizziness; neuralgia; paraesthesia; confusion; febrile convulsions; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; myelitis (including encephalomyelitis and transverse myelitis); neuropathy (including neuritis); paralysis (including Bell’s Palsy).

Respiratory disorders: Dyspnea; chest pain; cough; pharyngitis; rhinitis.

Skin and appendages: Stevens-Johnson syndrome; sweating; pruritus; urticaria; rash (including non-specific, maculopapular, and vesiculobulbous).

General disorders and administration site conditions: Injection site cellulitis-like reaction (very rare cases of swelling, pain, and redness were large and extended to the entire arm).

Flu Vaccines Are Not One-Size-Fits-All

The CDC states, “There are certain flu shots that have different age indications. For example, people younger than 65 years of age should not get the high-dose flu shot or the flu shot with adjuvant, and people who are younger than 18 years old or older than 64 years old should not get the intradermal flu shot.”

Be aware that age and dose restrictions are even more nuanced that that. There’s this flu vaccine that says it’s not licensed for children under the age of 3 and there’s this other flu vaccine that is not licensed for children under the age of 4. Finally, this flu vaccine is not licensed for children under the age of 5. Doses, warnings, precautions and adverse reactions all vary.

taking temperature of girl in bed with digital thermometer

The Flu Vaccine Can Cause Your Child to be More Susceptible to Other Illnesses

In a double-blind randomized controlled study reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases, 115 children aged 6-15 were given either the flu vaccine or a placebo. The researchers found that over the next 9 months those children that received the vaccine had a 440% increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infections.

In another study out of Sweden published in BMC Infectious Diseases, researchers found a similar result. They stated:

Reservations about flu vaccination, including the notion that flu vaccination would not result in appropriate protection, have been discussed in the public domain [2426]. One of the arguments is that flu vaccination may not protect against ILI [Influenza-Like Illness] symptoms during flu the season. This notion was corroborated in our study. A number of study participants, after pdm [pandemic] flu vaccination, experienced more ILI symptoms, perhaps due to the observed increase in prevalence of rhinovirus infection in pdm flu vaccinated participants as compared to non-pdm flu vaccinated participants.

Getting the Flu Vaccine Year After Year Can Reduce its Effectiveness

In a 2014 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers examined 5 years of historical vaccination data and found that vaccine effectiveness for influenza A in those that had not been previously vaccinated was 65% while vaccine effectiveness in those with frequent vaccination was reduced to 24%. For Influenza B, they found a similar pattern: 75% and 48% vaccine effectiveness, respectively.

Your Child Can Have the Flu Virus, But Not Develop Symptoms

All day long, all year long, we are all being exposed to bacteria and viruses. It is a fact that a person can carry the flu virus, transmit it and yet not develop any symptoms.

In a study reported in The Lancet, participants were tracked for five years:

[O]n average 18% of the unvaccinated community were infected with influenza each winter season–19% during prepandemic seasons and 18% during the 2009 pandemic. But most (77%) of these infections showed no symptoms, and only around 17% of people with PCR-confirmed influenza visited their doctor.” As the title of the report on the study states, “Three-quarters of people with seasonal and pandemic flu have no symptoms.

Thus, it is not a given, as most of us believe, that if we didn’t get sick that we never carried the virus. This fact makes clear that other conditions need to be present in a person’s body to trigger symptoms associated with the flu.

Your Child Has Flu-Like Symptoms, But It’s Likely Not the Flu

Colds, flus and other respiratory illnesses share similar symptoms making it difficult to distinguish which illness your child might have. According to data from the CDC, chances are quite high it’s not the flu.

Every year, the CDC issues updates on influenza activity. Their June 2017 report found that “[d]uring October 2, 2016 – May 20, 2017, clinical laboratories tested 865,168 specimens for influenza virus: 121,223 (14.0%) specimens tested positive for influenza virus.”

Statistics from clinical laboratories for the previous two seasons presented the same pattern.

During October 4, 2015–May 21, 2016, of the 639,456 specimens only 10.2% were positive for the flu virus and from September 28, 2014–May 23, 2015, only 18.1% were positive for the flu virus. (The 2014-2015 year included public health laboratories)

In other words, approximately 80-90% of the time, the respiratory illness people were suffering from was not caused by a flu virus.

If Your Child Catches the Flu, the Flu Vaccine May Not Contain the Specific Virus They Contracted

Each year, to have enough time to make the vaccine, flu manufacturers must predict approximately 9 months in advance what strain of flu virus will most likely be circulating in the coming season. Despite their best efforts, flu viruses are constantly mutating. This means that quite often, the vaccine will not contain the viruses that end up circulating that season. While some years the strains contained in the vaccine are well-matched to what people are catching, other years the vaccine is not well-matched.

The CDC states, “During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating influenza viruses, it is possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.”

Even if the Flu Vaccine Contains the Right Virus, it May Still Not Prevent the Flu

Every year the CDC conducts studies to measure the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. It provides an estimate of overall vaccine effectiveness adjusted for by study site, age, sex, underlying medical conditions and days from illness onset to enrollment.

From 2004 to 2017, the average effectiveness of the flu vaccine was 41%, ranging from a low of 10% effective in the 2004-2005 season to a high of 60% in the 2010-2011 season.

In other words, the flu vaccine can fail to prevent the flu between 40% – 90% of the time, even when it contains the strain your child contracted.

How Most Flu Vaccines are Manufactured is What Causes Them to Fail

Most flu vaccines are made by growing the influenza virus in a fertilized hen egg. A study in PLOS Pathogen published October 23, 2017 explains how, especially for the H3N2 virus, this is what causes them to fail. Specifically, the “influenza virus often mutates to adapt to being grown in chicken eggs, which can influence antigenicity and hence vaccine effectiveness.”

Indeed, vaccine efficacy has been quite low for the H3N2 virus. This study found that from 2004-2015 the average vaccine efficacy for the H3N2 virus was 33% (26% – 39%) when the virus contained in the vaccine was well-matched to the circulating virus and 23% (2% – 40%) when it was not well-matched.

The authors of the PLOS study concluded that it was urgent that egg-based production of vaccines be replaced.

 “But Some Protection is Better than None”

The CDC states that despite low vaccine efficacy statistics and mismatched viruses, that the flu vaccine offers some protection and some protection is better than none. This implies, however, that we are left defenseless without a vaccine.

But is that really true? Our immune system is constantly working to keep all kinds of viruses and bacteria in check. Strengthening the immune system is the other way to provide protection. And a strong immune system provides protection against all viruses and bacteria, not just the flu.

A Long-Term, Comprehensive Approach: Strengthening the Immune System

Strengthen your child’s immune system by nourishing your child with organic whole foods, a nutrient-dense diet, daily supplements and key nutrients that play a more direct role in immune health. For example, one study found that supplementing with colostrum was at least 3 times more effective than vaccination at preventing the flu and reducing its severity. Another study found that supplementing with Vitamin D provided protection against colds and flus on par with the protection offered by the flu vaccine.

For a time-tested protocol to help the body prevent colds and flus by strengthening the immune system, read our post on Best Ways to Outsmart Cold & Flu Bugs. And to gain a different perspective on what may be really going on when your child gets sick, read our post by guest author Dr. Philip Incao, MD, How to Treat Illness So Kids Are Better Off For Life. In it he explains some of the misconceptions about illness and the role it plays in strengthening and preparing the immune system for long-term, robust health.

No matter which approach you choose, make sure to practice basic self-care and good hygiene to reduce the chance of infection and developing symptoms:

  • frequently wash hands with soap and water, scrub for 20 seconds and dry them completely (drying matters too)
  • cover mouths when coughing and noses when sneezing
  • keep children home until they recover
  • avoid being around others who are sick until they recover
  • stay hydrated
  • get enough exercise – exercise boosts the immune system.
  • get plenty of sleep. During sleep our bodies detoxify and repair. Give your child’s body the chance to get rid of those unwanted viruses and bacteria.