This is a question that I really wish I heard more often. Patients are bombarded with everyone telling them they HAVE to have a flu shot. And, you don’t even have to talk to your Primary Care Physician anymore to get one, you can get one at Publix or your local pharmacy…just walk in, stick your arm in the window…thank you, now go get your groceries.
When I was in training and fresh out of medical residency, the flu shot was for the very old and the very, very young…now if you have skin, you are told you have to have one. I will not be surprised when my vet sends a note “It’s time for Bishop and Marley’s flu shot.”(Not that dogs can get the flu)
The CDC criteria for flu shots are:
- All children aged 6 through 59 months
- All persons aged ≥50 years
- Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma) or cardiovascular (except isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurological, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)
- Persons who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV infection)
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
- Children and adolescents (aged 6 months–18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- American Indians/Alaska Natives
- Persons who are morbidly obese (BMI ≥40)
Most patients having elective cosmetic surgery do not fall into any of these categories.
But a lot of our patients, the week after surgery while they are home anyway, decide that getting a flu shot is a good thing…IT IS. When it’s a fully informed decision. After the flu shot, a patient CAN experience mild to full blown symptoms of the flu. Those symptoms are the same symptoms that require a post-surgical patient to be fully worked up by a pulmonologist for respiratory complications from surgery. It can cause unnecessary testing, antibiotics, and even a hospital admission.
So, my thoughts on flu shots…if you are thinking about having any surgical procedure during cold and flu season, especially elective surgery, please talk to your surgeon about it. Some may be fine, others say wait 6 weeks…but let them help you figure out which would be best for you and the procedure that you are having. As for my patients, I’d like you to wait unless you are someone that the CDC really thinks need one, then I want to discuss it with you so we can plan your surgery appropriately.