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Flu Shots Anyone?

The front-page headline of our newspaper this morning immediately startled me: “Jump in staph-linked flu deaths in children is seen.”  For the first time, the recommendation is now for parents to have kids 18 years old and younger get a flu shot.   What do you think?  Do we all need to hurry over to our doctor’s office?  Are public health officials being overly cautious – or are they trying to push unnecessary flu vaccinations on our children?  What are you going to do with your kids?

Here is what public health officials are saying:

Flu deaths among children continue to rise each year.  There has been no drop in fatal flu-staph cases in children and those could still be on the rise too.

While it is true few children overall die from the flu virus (around 100 per year), it puts about 20,000 U.S. kids in the hospital each year. 

More than half the children who died were between ages 5 and 17 and had been healthy until they got the flu.

If that doesn’t do much to persuade you, the Los Angeles Times had an article last week talking about a “new experiment in the nation’s approach to preventing flu outbreaks – a push to vaccinate children, who are not only hospitalized at high rates because of the flu but appear to be efficient disease carriers as well.”

Ok, now that does start to make some sense.  The sickest my husband and I have ever been in the last 10 years was when my son was in preschool.  Our little guy would pick up a cold that had been passed around his class, and then bring it home to us.  What would take him 2-3 days to get over, took us each over a week!  Once we even inadvertently passed it on to Grandma.  It took my mom – a strong, healthy senior citizen — nearly 3 weeks to get back to feeling good.  My husband and I consider ourselves very healthy people (who pre-kids hardly ever got sick) but we sure had a rough go with it for a couple years. 

As this year’s flu season bears down upon us, we still have my daughter in preschool, exposed to all those nasty little kid germs.  And now those weekly or bi-weekly visits to Grandma’s have turned into almost daily occurrences (thanks to her move to the retirement home here in town).  I don’t want us to be a germ factory getting HER sick on top of everything else. 

Why the change in the age recommendations?  Previously, flu shots were recommended primarily for children under the age of 5 – the preschoolers – which of course makes sense (little kids – sharing toys – no real nose-blowing skills – we all know what it is like).  But there is actually a higher rate of infections with young people ages 5-18

As LA Times Staff Writer, Shari Roan, points out:

Physicians hope that vaccinating kids en masse will not only spare thousands of them from the aches and pains of flu, missed school days and hospitalizations, but also will hinder the spread of illness throughout the rest of society – parents, grandparents, baby-sitters, neighbors, teachers, coaches, office workers, healthcare personnel, bus drivers, and on and on. 

 from "Flu-fighting efforts focus on getting kids immunized

However, right next to that article was another one talking of the reasons why some parents were choosing NOT to.  What do we (as smart, caring, attentive parents) do?

I called our pediatrician’s office this morning to see what their practice was recommending.  They are recommending the flu shot.  After all I have read, I went ahead and made the appointment.  I guess this Zen Mama Wannabe is buying into the public health officials’ argument.  I don’t want my kids to miss school (like today – agh! It is starting already!) or have our regular routines interrupted.  I don't want my kids to feel crummy like only the flu makes you feel.  Right now, my daughter doesn't understand why she is coughing up phlegm from her throat but it bothers her so that every time she coughs, she cries!  And as she coughs all over me, it reminds me that I especially don’t want to get sick (as all women know, Mama is the kingpin that holds the family framework together – and when Mama’s sick, it’s hard on everybody – especially Mama!).  And lastly, I don’t want my mom to catch anything from us.  It seems like kid germs hit adults hard and the elderly are especially vulnerable. 

Will this flu shot prevent all those things from happening?  Maybe – or maybe not.  Maybe we will still get sick, but not as bad or for as long.  Maybe it will help us stay healthy all winter.  Maybe it won’t work at all.  Regardless, I am willing to try for the sake of the greater good.  Will I be seeing you and your kids in the waiting room??

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2 Responses to “Flu Shots Anyone?”

  1. LarkLady Says:
    October 7th, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Interesting — because when I stopped at the drug store a couple of days ago to pick up something on the way home from work, I was a bit startled to see the nurse there, giving flu shots already. Huh? I thought. It’s only October! What’s going on – we usually don’t see much about flu shots until November or even December.

    So I did some checking when I got home and found just about the same information you’ve found: the new concept of preventing massive outbreaks by breaking the chain in more places along the line. As it happens, I have a routine appointment with my doctor this week, so I’ve added “Flu shot?” to the list of things to discuss with her. Because let’s face it: the momentary pain and minor inconvenience of a flu shot sure beats 5 – 10 days feeling wretched with the flu! And if I don’t get it, I can’t pass it on.

  2. callieandbatido Says:
    October 9th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    All good points and very persuasive as to why to get a flu shot, but I am still hesitant. One big reason is the data that shows that getting shots to prevent so many different potential diseases, the flu included, builds up a an imunity in us that leads to virus’ getting stronger and stronger. Also, the shot only fights certain strains of the flu so the chances of catching it is still out there. The flu is inconvient, and is some cases very serious, but can we really avoid it? I am not sure what I am going to do.

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