“Twin Killers: Aspirin and the Flu”

“Twin Killers:  Aspirin and the Flu”

            With flu season about to make its usual appearance, the cries to “get your flu shot” are as loud as ever.  People often ask me if I got my shot.  My answer is no, and, I have never had one.  I refer to the flu shot as “pixie dust”.  We are supposed to believe that the flu shot will keep us from getting the flu when all medical evidence points to mediocre results at best. 

            How did we get to this point of needing a flu shot?  Here’s a historical perspective:  in 1918 millions of people died from the flu.  Why the outbreak?  One contributor was the influx of sick and injured soldiers returning from World War I affecting the overall health of the American population.   Another less known factor was rampant use, or better stated “misuse”, of aspirin.  Aspirin was developed and patented by Bayer in 1897.  With the patent expiring in 1917, Bayer had to take action to boost their financial interest.  Aspirin became aggressively marketed to the medical doctors and patients.  The problem was no one considered the side effects.  Aspirin suddenly became the leading cause of death in children due to toxicity.  For those with the flu aspirin was touted as the solution.  Since aspirin interfered with the expression of fever, this natural and powerful response by the body’s immune system to combat the cause was reduced. 

            With one less tool to fight the flu, in this case fever, countless lives were lost.  If aspirin had not been so widely abused in 1918 we would not be so fearful of the flu today.  That, my friends, is the rest of the story.