Lupus and the flu


“I was told that because I have lupus, I should get the flu shot; but I thought because I have lupus, my immune system was hyperactive. Wouldn’t the flu shot be over-kill? What is the real story?”

It’s true that in lupus, your immune system is hyperactive, that your body attacks the good germs and it attacks foreign invaders. However, if you are taking a medication like the steroid, Prednisone, your immune system is already suppressed and therefore your body has a harder time fighting an infection. This means that your body’s ability to fight off an infection is greatly decreased.

The infections we’re more prone to are upper respiratory infections (colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia), urinary infections (bladder infections and cystitis) and skin infections (boils, cellulitis, and cuts that can become infected).

Culprit medications aren’t just medications like predisone or other steroid medications, but medications like Imuran. Cell-Cept or anti-malarials.. Not getting the flu shot increases time lost from work, increases the number of hospitalizations, increases visits to the doctor and most important, it contributes to the number of deaths from lupus, because you can die from a bad case of the flu.

It also means that the time it takes to recover from what is often a short illness is much more prolonged. It is VERY important that you not get the nasal spray if it is offered to you. All of us would prefer a nasal spray to a shot, but the nasal spray contains the flu’s LIVE VACCINE and people with lupus should steer clear of live vaccines.

Yes, there is a risk of your experiencing a flare of your lupus symptoms if you have the flu shot, but that risk is small when you compare it to the possible complications of not getting the shot (hospitalization, lost work time, death, increased doctor’s office visits.

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