Monday, October 11, 2010

Flu Shots

It is that time of year again for flu shots.  Last year, I did not get my swine flu shot in time and I was really sick with the swine flu... and pregnant!  So this year, I decided to get my shot a little on the earlier side and get everyone in the family vaccinated as well.  The flu vaccine this year combines both seasonal flu as well as swine flu.  For more information from the cdc you can click here.

Being in primary care, I will most definitely be exposed to the flu.  Since my immune system is not the greatest with such sleep deprivation, I need all the help I can get to stay healthy.  The basic idea is to inoculate against a dead virus so that my body will make antibodies.  Then when the real live virus hits... I got my defense system ready to go.  This should translate to no illness or less severe symptoms and shorter duration of illness.  I'm telling you... last year I was coughing and sick for over 4 weeks!  

More importantly, I need to get vaccinated so that I protect my patients and my two small children from being sick.  Sometimes, you may catch what you think is the common cold (when it is actually the flu) and the symptoms seem mild and go away because your immune system is pretty strong.  However, you can then pass along that same virus to someone else who has a weaker immune system (very young or very old) and that person can get very sick... even die.  This is why it is recommended for all healthcare providers to get the flu shot.  It is really to protect the patients who have weaker immune systems.  And in fact, all parents of small children should get the flu shot to protect against their young ones.

Yes... we still get a lot of people very wary of vaccines.  I can only say you have to weigh the pros and cons and make the best choice based on the facts.  Of course there are real contraindications of why you should not get the flu shot (ie. if you are allergic to eggs or if you have had a bad reaction to it in the past).  Again for more detailed information you can go to the cdc site listed above.

So my kids did great!  My ten month old did cry during the shot but she was crying before the needle, so I think she was just upset because daddy was holding her so tightly.  The parental grip on an infant is an art and can make all the difference in the experience.  The child should feel safe and secure.  The grip should not be so hard as to cause pain or discomfort but yet firm enough that the limb does not move.  The last thing you want is a flailing limb around a sharp needle!

My toddler was amazingly brave.  She watched the needle the whole time and did not even flinch or shed a tear.  Maybe it helped that mommy and daddy got shots first and she watched us get it with no incidence.  However, she did witness the baby crying during her shot... so who knows.  Well, many kids are crying way before the needle is anywhere near them.  I definitely think the fear of the needle and anticipation is far worse than the actual shot itself.  We've had our share of screaming wiggling children putting up quite a fight in our office.

Finally I just want to dispel a common myth about the flu shot.  Flu shots cannot cause the flu!  I really like how WebMD puts it and you can click here for more common myths about the flu:

This is the flu myth most likely to drive experts bonkers.  “There is simply no way that the flu vaccine can give you the flu,” says Hay.  “It’s impossible.”
Why? For one, injected flu vaccines only contain dead virus, and a dead virus is, well, dead: it can’t infect you.  There is one type of live virus flu vaccine, the nasal vaccine, FluMist.  But in this case, the virus is specially engineered to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick.
Despite the scientific impossibility of getting the flu from the flu vaccines, this widespread flu myth won’t die.  Experts suspect two reasons for its persistence.  One, people mistake the side effects of the vaccine for flu.  While side effects to the vaccine these days tend to be a sore arm, in the past, side effects often felt like mild symptoms of the flu. Two, flu season coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air.  Many people get the vaccine and then, within a few days, get sick with an unrelated cold virus.  However, they blame the innocent flu vaccine, rather than their co-worker with a runny nose and cough.

I'm also going to cut and paste this section here from WebMD on dosing of the flu vaccine:

My children are under 9 years old. How many doses of the seasonal flu vaccine do they need?

It's really quite complicated for parents whose children are 8 years old or younger and who have never been fully vaccinated against the flu.
How many doses of flu vaccine will a child under age 9 years need this year? It will depend on two things:
  • Whether the child got any H1N1 vaccine AND
  • Whether the child previously got a seasonal vaccination, when that was given, and how many doses they got.
Children who got a previous seasonal flu vaccine as recommended -- AND got just one dose of the H1N1 pandemic vaccine last year -- need only one dose of the seasonal vaccine this year. We give them credit for getting the priming dose last year, but only if they previously got the seasonal vaccine.
Children under age 9 years who never before got a seasonal flu vaccination will need two doses of the seasonal vaccine this year -- even if they got the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine.
Children under age 9 years who have had a previous flu vaccination but who did not get the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine will need two doses of the seasonal vaccine this year.
If a child needs two doses of the flu vaccine, the second dose must be given no sooner than four weeks after the first dose.

It's such a hassle to get young children two doses of flu vaccine a month apart. Won't they get at least some protection from a single dose of the vaccine?