Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Frugal Ounce of Prevention: Pneumovax

True confessions: I'm not a big fan of flu vaccine. I am, however a huge fan of the pneumonia vaccine (pneumovax). Huh? What's that? How does it relate to preparedness? Well, let me share my experience and explain.

DISCLAIMER: This is not medical advice. I am not a physician. I was a long-time sufferer of chronic bronchitis and frequent sinus infections and this is my story about something that made a real difference.

From the time I was about 24 until I had my first pneumovax at about 40, I experienced 3 or 4 cases EACH of bronchitis and sinus infections every year. Occasionally I would have the bronchitis symptom first and then the cold symptoms would start later that day.  That's how puny my lungs were.

My brother's youngest child had chronic ear infections and was a candidate for 'tubes.'  Their pediatrician asked if they would consider giving her a pneumovax to see if it would help, with the surgery still available later if the vaccine did not help. The vaccine worked. The ear infections stopped within six weeks after taking it. About 6 months later, they noticed she wasn't getting sick when everyone else was, so the rest of the family got theirs. My brother raved about how much healthier they all were.

So I got one. The next year, no sinus infections, one case of bronchitis. Fluke? Similar fluke the following year with one of each type of illness. Same the next for almost 10 years.  The illnesses started increasing again in 2008, so I had another. Boom, back to 1 and 1 or less.

The pneumovax helped me build immunity to multiple (I think more than 20) of the common pneumonia-causing organisms. The rules for the pneumonia vaccine are a little different than for the annual flu shot, so do your homework if you are interested. It really worked for me. Possibly saved me from developing the emphysema often associated with chronic allergy-related bronchitis. Don't be put off by the 'recommendation' that you should take it if you are over 65. Younger works too.

What does this have to do with being prepared for emergencies? LOTS. Imagine your local worst-case emergency scenario.  Does it include having full medical care available if you get bronchitis? Does it include caring for yourself and family when you are too tired to move, breathing hurts, and can't get enough oxygen? Bonus round: Guess what happens if your weakened body can't fight off the bronchitis? Pneumonia. This great post from the Harried Homemaker Preps takes the discussion from that point.

So I view determining whether you are a pneumovax candidate and paying a few bucks at Walgreen's, Target or your favorite pharmacy as a smart and frugal way to avoid lost wages, doctor bills, the cost of antibiotics, wear and tear on your aging body AND possibly worse in an emergency situation.  For me, 8 illnesses per year reduced to 2 at most and even with insurance, I saved 6 sick days from work, weeks of feeling lousy and about $400 per year by spending $30 on a pneumovax (Now $80 if your insurance doesn't cover it or you can't get through your county health department) that lasted almost 10 years. Spending less than $10 a year (amortized cost) to save over $400 each year?   What a frugal bargain! Spend $80 now to keep from being a casualty and liability during an emergency? PRICELESS!

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