Brief Recap of Tweets for The Great American Smokeout

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 14:52

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat presented by Sharecare was ongoing spirited conversation for five hours filled with valuable information. The Hashtag #quitforgood led the chat. Every third Thursday in November The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout.

First, thank you to all the participants. Thank you to all the smokers who were involved in the conversation. Whether you recently quit smoking, were looking for information on how to quit smoking or you just wanted to quit for that one day, thank you. The American Cancer Society states, “By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.”

Secondly, below, please find a very small sample of Tweets from Otis Brawley, MD-American Cancer Society, CDC, Mount Sinai Hospital, and myself Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, Editorial Advisory Board/Health Educator at Sharecare. For a complete list of the health experts who contributed, please click here.

Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the

American Cancer Society

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout Otis Brawley for Healthin30 Post

American Cancer Society-Otis Brawley

  • #quitforgood nicotine is more addictive than cocaine. Do not risk the addiction
  • #quitforgood nicotine is as addictive as cocaine even 2 cig/day can also cause lung disease
  • #quitforgood 2nd hand smoke in childhood causes crib death, asthma, bronchitis and later can lead to lung cancer
  • #quitforgood Smokers should know risks and benefits of lung screening. There are risks. Make an informed decision.
  • #quitforgood flavored tobacco, menthol especially has been used to lure folks into smoking. Nicotine is then the handcuff of addiction
  • #quitforgood It is far easier for light to moderate smokers to quit. Heavy smokers need help from addiction specialists.
  • #quitforgood no data show ecigs help smokers quit.


 Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, Health Educator, Editorial Advisory Board for Sharecare @BarbaraFicarra

Twitter Barbara Ficarra for Healthin30 Post

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

  • Delighted 2 join #quitforgood @OtisBrawley @AmericanCancer @CDCgov @DrFriedenCDC @Sharecarenow @HopkinsMedicine @MountSinaiNYC @RMillerMD
  • Each year about 443,000 people die prematurely fr smoking or exposure 2 secondhand smoke #quitforgood
  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the US #quitforgood
  • It’s never too late to quit, but the sooner the better. You can do it! #quitforgood
  • Prevention is key-Must focus on preventing tobacco use among youth! #quitforgood
  • Per CDC Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body… #quitforgood
  • The cigarette industry spends billions ea year on advertising/promotions #quitforgood
  • When smokers quit, the risk for a heart attack drops sharply after just 1 year #quitforgood
  • When smokers quit, risk for dying of lung cancer drops by half after 10 years #quitforgood
  • Quitting gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking #quitforgood
  • Do you want to quit? Write down the reasons-Acknowledge-Take action! You can do it! @Sharecarenow Guide  #quitforgood
  • There’s a smoking quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW 1-800-784-8669 #quitforgood
  • Be empowered and take charge of your health! You can do it! #quitforgood

 CDC Tobacco Free

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout CDC Tobacco Free for Healthin30 Post

CDC Tobacco Free

  • For most, it takes several attempts before succeeding at quitting smoking, but don’t give up trying to #QuitForGood.
  • More than 1/2 of Americans who have ever smoked have already quit & 70% of current smokers say they want to quit. You can #QuitForGood.
  • Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of over 7,000 chemicals & compounds. Inhaling it causes short & long-term damage. #QuitForGood
  • Make a list of reasons for quitting. Keep handy & read it when you get the urge to smoke. #QuitForGood
  • The younger kids begin smoking, more likely to become addicted. Quit now, or better yet- don’t start. #QuitForGood
  • Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of over 7,000 chemicals & compounds. Inhaling it causes short & long-term damage. #QuitForGood
  • Call quitline & speak to smoking cessation counselor who can provide advice, support, & help you make a plan. #QuitForGood
  • #Smokers are 2-4x more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease. Be heart-healthy & #QuitForGood

  Mount Sinai Hospital

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout Mount Sinai NYC for Healthin30 Post

Mount Sinai Hospital

  • It ages your face. Makes your teeth yellow & effects your entire body. #quitforgood
  • Ask to create smoke free environments at work & public places. Heart attacks decrease as soon as these bans are in place #quitforgood
  • Even if you’re not a smoker, you can still be at risk for #LungCancer. Assess your risk at @DrOz #quitforgood
  • The sooner you #QuitSmoking, the sooner your #HeartDisease risk will decline! Learn tips from Dr Myerson #quitforgood
  • Even if you’re not a smoker, you can still be at risk for #LungCancer. Assess your risk at @DrOz #quitforgood

Lastly, I’ve never been a smoker so I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It must be very hard to quit. However, According the American Cancer Society, “research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support.”

Know there are professionals out there who can help you if you need it. Once you choose to quit, carry on. Be empowered. Be in charge of your health. You can do it! I wish you all the best.

Your turn

Are you a smoker? Did you participate in The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat? What tips do you have to quit? Please share them in the comment section below. As always thank you for your very valuable time.

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Sharecare Presents: The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 16:07

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 43.8 million people (18 years or older), in the United States smoke cigarettes. What’s even more astounding is that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Every year in the United States more than 440,000 deaths occur. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases (including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction).

The Good News–Ask your questions now @Sharecare and use Hashtag #quitforgood

More than half of all adult smokers have quit, and millions of people have learned to face life without a cigarette, and you can too. What’s so exciting is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can find valuable information in real time by taking part in the The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat presented by Sharecare. The experts from the American Cancer Society and Sharecare will answer your questions and provide you with resources to help you.

Sharecare Twitter Chat American Cancer Society #quitforgood


Sharecare Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout - Experts American Cancer Society, Sharecare, CDC, Johns Hopkins Barbara Ficarra


Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sharecare Presents: The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat

Quit smoking for good with live help from the American Cancer Society.

When: November 20 & 21, 2013
Where: Right here! And on Twitter!

Ask your questions in advance on November 20!

Have a question about how to quit smoking? Just starting to quit and need tips and tricks? Wondering about ways to improve your health once you quit? Want to know how lawmakers can help in the fight against tobacco use?

On Wednesday, November 20, ask your question on Twitter to @sharecarenow using the Hashtag #quitforgood. Go online Thursday, November 21, 11 am to 4 pm EST to see the answers roll in from the American Cancer Society and other experts!

Ask away and follow #quitforgood – I’m thrilled to participate in Sharecare’s Twitter Chat. Start asking your questions now.

More information on the Sharecare Twitter Chat may be found here.

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Are Doctors Writing Prescriptions for Fruits and Vegetables?

Monday, November 18, 2013 16:00

Fresh produce program gains momentum in weight-loss fight
Fruits and Vegetables Healthin30

By Christine S. Moyer

More doctors are writing prescriptions for a proven weight-loss treatment with no negative side effects — fresh vegetables and fruits.

The initiative, known as the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, was started by the Connecticut-based nonprofit Wholesome Wave in 2010. The organization aims to improve access and affordability of fresh, locally grown produce to underserved communities.

The program targets overweight and obese children and pregnant women. It requires that they use physician prescriptions that are redeemable for produce at a local farmer’s market.

On July 24, New York announced it is implementing the program at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital Center in Manhattan. It’s the first time the program will be available at a major hospital system, according to Wholesome Wave. The program also is being used at clinics in Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

The program “is a creative approach that … will enable at-risk patients to visit any of our 142 farmers markets and purchase the fruits and vegetables that will help them stay healthy,” said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, MD, MPH.

By focusing on children and pregnant women, the entire family’s eating habits and resulting health will improve, said Boston pediatrician Shikha Anand, MD, MPH. She is the co-founder and medical director of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program.

“The goal is to target families using a life course approach,” Dr. Anand said. “Our thought is that pregnancy and parenthood are times families might be restructuring eating patterns and thinking of the connection between food and health.”

Some health experts, however, question the program’s effectiveness, due in part to its short duration (four to six months a year), its dependence on regular patient follow-up visits and its sole focus on eating healthy food.

“It’s absolutely true that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. So any effort … to really promote fresh produce is a positive thing,” said Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. But “I don’t know that focusing just on increasing fruits and vegetables is going to be enough to decrease body weight.”

She said there is a common misconception by the public that if you eat more nutritious food, you automatically will consume less-processed products. That’s often not the case, Schwartz said.

She recommends that when physicians talk to patients about healthy eating, they stress that the individual reduce consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages.

Despite improvements, obesity rates remain too high

Recent data show that improvements are beginning to be seen in the nation’s fight against obesity. For instance, 19 states and U.S. territories reported decreases in obesity among low-income preschoolers in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

For adults, obesity rates appear to be holding steady after decades of increasing, according to a report issued Aug. 15 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Despite those improvements, medical experts say obesity rates among adults and children remain too high. More than a third of adults and 17% of youths age 2 to 19 are considered obese, according to the CDC. Researchers are projecting a dramatic increase in adult obesity and related health care costs by 2030 if the trend continues.

“We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place,” said Janet L. Collins, PhD, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

Dr. Anand anticipates that the fruit and vegetable program could be one such strategy.

Prescription for fruits and vegetables

When a primary care doctor enrolls a patient in the program, an appointment is scheduled for the patient to meet with the physician and a nutritionist. During that visit, the doctor gives the patient a prescription for fruits and vegetables that is equal to $1 a day for produce for the patient and each family member. That means a family of four would receive $28 per week to spend on fruits and vegetables at an area farmer’s market, Dr. Anand said.

Patients can get the prescriptions weekly from their physician’s office during the program. They return to see their doctor and a nutritionist once a month to discuss their health and set new goals for nutritious eating. Most of the program is funded through grants, Dr. Anand said.

Physicians who are interested in participating can contact Wholesome Wave and try to identify a local farmer’s market with whom they could partner, she said.

Some measurable success

The program is effective, said Wholesome Wave. Fifty-five percent of patients in the program in 2012 reported increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption, and 38% of children decreased their body mass index, the organization said.

Shopping behaviors also seemed to change — 53% of families in the program report going to their local farmer’s market at least eight times during the 2012 season.

Despite those improvements, some health experts question how the program realistically can be implemented in primary care. Among the challenges many physicians face is limited time during office visits and lack of coverage for discussions on nutrition and weight loss counseling, they said.

Although Medicare covers a series of primary care visits for obesity counseling among patients with a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater, such appointments are not covered by most private insurance companies.

Schwartz said physicians might feel overwhelmed by the program requirement that they reach out to local farmer’s markets. But, she added, for doctors who have the time and interest, the initiative probably will have a significant impact on patients.

“For doctors to be able to tell patients … ‘I’ve been to the farmer’s market. They’re really nice,’ there’s something to that,” Schwartz said. “It would feel like the patient is getting personal and practical advice and not this abstract message, ‘Eat more fruit.’ ”

Image courtesy of amenic181/

External links

Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, Wholesome Wave (link)

“Progress on Childhood Obesity: Many States Show Declines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs, Aug. 6 (link)

“F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013,” Trust for America’s Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Aug. 16 (PDF link)

[Original Post Date Aug. 26, 2013-American Medical News]

American Medical News ceased publication on September 9, 2013 after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession.

American Medical News not only kept physicians informed, it also kept other health care professionals and the health community informed of relevant health issues. Health in 30® has been granted permission by the American Medical Association to use its existing content on the site.


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Q&A with Andrew Baldwin, MD—Humanitarian, Fitness Expert and Former Star of The Bachelor

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 16:06

Part 1

As a physician, fitness expert, humanitarian and one-time reality show star of ABC’s The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman; Dr. Andy Baldwin has a multitude of interests and expertise, and has a starring role in health and fitness. Dr. Baldwin is passionate about making America a healthier country and the world a better place. Take a peek at what makes one of America’s most passionate doctor’s tick.

Andrew Baldwin, MD for Healthin30 561605_10151961309869462_2033482428_n

Andrew Baldwin, MD

Q. Barbara Ficarra: Your acts of kindness and empathy for people are evident, your charitable and humanitarian efforts have spanned the globe from Laos to Kenya; what drives your passion for helping others?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: My parents taught me at a young age to always ask people “how can I help?” Through their excellent mentorship I have learned the importance of these four simple words. I believe helping others is the greatest thing we can do while on this Earth. It is what makes me happy. Experiences with the Navy have taken me to dozens of countries in the past decade, providing me with an intense perspective into the health disparities of the developing world. With no access to clean water, lack of perinatal care, and crippling infections in these regions, simply getting to age 5 is a victory. Here in the USA, we’re blessed to have the basics like clean water, but our health and happiness is often held back by lack of exercise and unhealthy food choices. As a doctor, I see too much illness caused by obesity and what drives me more than anything is to turn that around and help these families get healthier. I love taking my patients to the grocery store or to do fun fitness activities to get them started on an exercise routine. That’s what fuels my passion for my work – seeing them adopt these better habits and get healthier.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: What advice would you give to high school and college students about following their passions?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: As you set sail into the sea of life, don’t attempt to have your exact course established, but have a good compass. Take note of what makes you happy, and what doesn’t. If you find yourself doing something you are not passionate about, set a new course. Be open to opportunity; don’t be afraid to take risks. Life is too short to live with regrets.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: Fitness is extremely important to you. From completing your first triathlon in 2001 to running marathons; and climbing mountains; has fitness always been part of your lifestyle growing up as a child or did you become passionate about fitness later on?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: Fitness has truly shaped who I am as a person. Following my parents lead, as a child I developed fitness as a habit and experienced the benefits of being active every day. As a kid I was always outside- hiking, biking, playing tag, or capture the flag. This developed into playing most sports throughout grade school and excelling at swimming and running as a high school and collegiate athlete. Sports taught me teamwork, social skills, discipline and good time management.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: As an advocate for the First Lady’s Let’s Move Campaign, in your opinion, what suggestions would you offer people to become more active? How can people make physical activity part of their lifestyle?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: When I worked with the U.S. Surgeon General, Admiral Galson, on his Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future initiative, what I loved most was his insistence on traveling to the field, and actually exercising and teaching students why physical activity is so important. This idea of getting out in front of the kids and interacting directly with students remains a priority of mine as an advocate for the First Lady’s Let’s Move Campaign. In order for people to make physical activity a habit they need to make the mental shift in their mind giving it a higher priority level. Educating them on why activity is so important is key. As is the need for the physical activity to be fun! At the end of the day, each person has different reasons that can be harnessed to motivate them to make activity a habit. Keying in on those reasons and motivating them is what I love to do as a mentor, physician, and coach.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: How important is physical fitness programs for children in schools?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: Physical activity has  been shown to improve mental health, confidence, and improve scholastic performance. The fact that P.E. has been eliminated from schools is a travesty. Kids need an outlet during the day for physical activity and fun.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: In your opinion, what are the most significant stories about health today?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: Hands down, the most pressing health issue for the United States is the number of overweight and obese in our country. The alarming part is that chronic diseases (chronic diseases include heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes,  arthritis and obesity) can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke, and are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. last year. The more alarming fact is that these diseases are preventable. 133 million Americans live with at least one chronic illness, and more than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.

Q. Barbara Ficarra: What’s on the horizon for your next fitness adventure?

A. Dr. Andy Baldwin: I am running the NYC Marathon on November 3rd.  It will be my 5th time doing the race, and this year I am running for a very important cause.  November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and by running I want people to know that physical activity is the best way to prevent diabetes. Close to 26 million Americans have Diabetes, impeding their ability to process their blood sugar, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke and diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness.  Nutrisystem is supporting me in this effort through their diabetic education program and diabetic friendly low glycemic index meal plans.   As a family physician, the importance of consistent daily exercise paired with a structured, smart, nutrition plan is paramount to prevent diabetes and for diabetics to keep their blood sugar numbers until control.

Pursue your passions, do what makes you happy, have no regrets and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Inspired by his parents, Dr. Andy Baldwin keeps close the four simple words his parents taught him, “How can I help?” Striving to make the world a better place, Dr. Baldwin’s passion is insurmountable. His dedication and commitment are commendable. While he may have captured the hearts of many during his stint in the spotlight on Prime Time, one thing is for sure, he has captured the world’s heart because nothing is better than caring and helping others.

I have no doubt Dr. Baldwin will be victorious in the New York City Marathon. He’s running his fifth straight ING New York City Marathon to not only support diabetes awareness, but to support Camp Interactive, a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that brings technology education infused with leadership skills to inner-city youth. TeamInteractive 2013 NYC Marathon fundraiser information may be found here.

[Editor's Note: Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health]

Your turn

What fuels your passion? What makes you happy? How do you help others? Please share your insightful thoughts in the comment section below. As always, thank you for your valuable time.

Up next…Part 2…Find out where Dr. Andy Baldwin would like to be in five years, his favorite quote, and if he could have lunch with anyone in the world, find out who he would choose.

About Andrew Baldwin, MD

Lieutenant Commander Andrew James “Andy” Baldwin, M.D., board-certified in family medicine, is a U.S. Navy physician, humanitarian, media-personality, 8-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, and triathlete. Baldwin earned a Bachelor of Science, Magna Cum Laude, from Duke University, his M.D. from UCSF, and is studying to earn his Masters in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Dr. Baldwin is Senior Medical Officer on the Amphibious Assault Ship, USS Makin Island in San Diego, CA.  Previously, Baldwin served as a spokesperson for Navy medicine at the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C. where he also assisted the U.S. Surgeon General with Healthy-Youth-for-a-Healthy-Future.  Baldwin is an advocate for the “Let’s Move” Campaign headed by First Lady, Michelle Obama, and works with Nutrisystem with its initiatives to combat obesity and diabetes.

Baldwin completed his internship in General Surgery before being deployed to the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Cambodia, and the Republic of Palau as an Undersea Medical Officer on diving, recovery and humanitarian missions. Dr. Baldwin has been honored on Washington D.C.’s Most Influential People under 40 list and Outside Magazine’s Top 100 Influential People of the World list for his humanitarian work treating over 600 Laotians in remote villages.

Baldwin completed his first triathlon in 2001 with Team-in-Training, combining sport and charity for the first time, and finished atop the podium. In 2002 Baldwin completed the Ironman Triathlon World Championships, is now an eight-time Ironman finisher, five of them being the arduous Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, was named to the All-Navy Triathlon Team five times, is a three-time U.S.A. Triathlon All-American, and competed internationally in numerous Ironman events.

Baldwin appears frequently in media including Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Triathlete and GQ Magazines, Good Morning America, CNN, The View, FOX News, ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, NBC and other television, and was the star of ABC’s hit show, “The Bachelor: An Officer and a Gentleman,” and guest contributor to

Dr. Baldwin is founder of the charity Got Your Back Network, a foundation that helps families of fallen soldiers.

Learn more at

Flu Season-Insights from the ER

Friday, October 25, 2013 13:58

Flu Season is here; a quick vaccine reference to avoid an Emergency Room Visit.

By Justin S. Larkin, MD

Influenza CDC 3D_Influenza_blue_no_key_full_med2 Healthin30 post

Graphical Representations of a Generic Influenza Virus-Generic Influenza Virus
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

As the sun sets on summer and the fall weather is now here, this means one thing in the Emergency Departments around the world, Flu Season.  Flu related chief complaints during the winter months place a large strain on Emergency Departments around the country.

Often the wait times to be seen and overcrowding of the department occurs, as I am sure many of you have seen or heard about via different media outlets.  As an Emergency Medicine Physician I see the waiting room start to fill as the season progresses, which makes it hard to get to all of the needing patients seen in a timely manner.  It is often a source of frustration for both the physician and patient to have such long wait times. The physician wanting to help and the patient needing help, however there are just too many patients and not enough room.  The one thing that will help the community as a whole, and decrease the burden on the Emergency Systems, is vaccination. There are also some simple things we can do to help prevent the spread of flu.


Do I need a Flu Shot, I got one last year?

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine every year. Routine annual vaccination for all persons age 6 months and older is the recommendation from the CDC.  Vaccination across the country is getting better overall. Last year the CDC reports that 56.6% of children 6 Months to 17 years were vaccinated and 41.5% of adults age greater than 18 years old were vaccinated.  The Influenza viruses vary widely from season to season and from year to year.  This is due to the differences in circulating virus types that occur from gene mutation and genetic drift annually.  Thus the composition of the Flu Vaccine is changed in most seasons with one or more vaccine strains replaced annually to provide protection against viruses that are anticipated to circulate.

Your flu vaccine that you got last year will not be effective this year. According to the CDC, flu viruses are constantly changing, and different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The annual flu vaccine is updated each year to protect against the flu viruses research indicates will be most common. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every year.

As a quick basic science introduction there are three types of Flu that we can contract:

-Type A: Circulates every year and these are described as H and N types. (H1N1)
-Type B: Circulates every year and this causes milder disease then type A
-Type C: Endemic and cases are rare and mild

Every year the World Health Organization in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control via observational data come up with the most popular strains that will most likely be transmitted.

The 2013-2014 Vaccine Strains for the Northern Hemisphere selected for this year: (Source)
-A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)
-B/ Massachusetts/2/2012

Ok I will get a flu shot, so which shot is right for me?

Like everything there has been innovation in this field and there is more and more options for flu shots this year.  I will try and break down each option, just remember that the CDC does not recommend one over another, again the most important being just getting any of these shots yearly.

  1. Standard three-strain (Trivalent) vaccine- This is the standard shot that is injected into our arm. The vaccine protects against three strains of flu, two type A and one type B.  Approved for all people ages 6 months and older.
  2. Standard four-strain (Quadrivalent) vaccine- This year there is a vaccine that protects against four rather than the standard three, it includes an extra type B strain.  The vaccine is designed to provide broader protection against circulating influenza type B in seasons during which the type B in the normal three-strain vaccine is not an optimal match the common circulating type B virus.  Again type B usually is a mild case of the flu as compared to type A. This is a new vaccine this year and there will need to be some observational studies to see just how much this will help fight the spread of infection. There is limited supply of this vaccine and you should not delay vaccination if you cannot find this particular product. The CDC does not have a preference of the three versus the four strain vaccine.
  3. High Dose Vaccine- This contains four times the antigen of the standard flu shot. The point of this shot is to help those with weaker immune systems, and it is recommended only those people 65 and older.  This will still only have the standard three virus strains selected for this year just a lot more of the antigen.
  4. Nasal Spray vaccine- if you hate needles, healthy, ages between 2 and 49, not pregnant then this is an option. This is a quadrivalent vaccine and will protect the four strains of virus selected for the year.

Where and when can I get the Flu Shot?

The flu vaccine usually becomes available in late September and you should have your vaccine by October.  Most of the flu outbreaks occur in January, so that is why we suggest getting the vaccine early.  The vaccine usually takes about two weeks for your body to make the antibodies to protect you from the flu.

Here is a link to show you where you can a vaccine in your neighborhood:

Oh wait! I have an egg allergy….

This year there is also an egg free dose trivalent vaccine.  The vaccine is called Flublok which has three strains of virus protein.  This is only recommended for those with non anaphylactic reaction to eggs and ages between 18 and 49.

I heard that the flu shot will make me feel sick?

Depending on the shot there are some side effects.  Most people that get the muscle shot have reported soreness, redness, swelling over the area where the shot was given. There are some reports of headache, muscle aches, fever and nausea. This usually occurs soon after the shot and last no more then 1-2 days. Those patients that received the nasal spray vaccine report having runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough.  As with any medical intervention there is a risk of allergic reaction and if you show any signs of allergic reaction or unusual conditions that you have following the vaccine you should seek medical attention right away.


About Justin Larkin, MD

Justin Larkin, MDDr. Justin Larkin is currently a Senior Emergency Medicine Resident in Washington, D.C. at the George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Larkin completed his undergraduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. He then went on to complete his medical degree at the George Washington University. During his Emergency Residency, Dr. Larkin developed an interest in medical journalism and now is in the process of exploring different types of medical media at His interests are in the dissemination of information to the masses of both sides of the bedside, the physician experience and the patient experience.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
What You Should Know for the 2013-2014 Influenza Season

Your turn

As always, thank you for your valuable time. We would love to hear you. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.

(For more specific information regarding what’s best for you, talk to you doctor, nurse or other health care provider.)

Up next…Information on Thimerosal, what you can do to prevent the spread of germs and the right way to wash your hands.