Get the shot: Our experience with flu made getting vaccinated a priority

  • Updated: December 11, 2013 - 10:32 AM

Why our experience with influenza has made getting vaccinated a priority

By SAMARA POSTUMA  I’d always been a little indifferent toward flu shots. Of course, when I was pregnant I got vaccinated and always made sure my kids got vaccinated. But, it was “when we get to the clinic, we’ll get it done” vs. “we really need to get the vaccine” sort of attitude.

That is until this past winter. On New Year’s Day, my sweet little 4-year-old spiked a fever and started on a downhill health spiral, and I realized the flu shot was a lot more important than I’d ever imagined.

After a late night with friends celebrating the new year, my daughter Evelyn was tired, lethargic and feverish. We thought nothing of it seeing as she’d been up so late, eating treats and having fun. She fell asleep several times throughout the day, which was extremely out of the norm for her. She had a cold but let’s be honest, when don’t preschool aged kids have some signs of a cold going on?

That night, her fever reached 103 degrees and because that was higher than what a typical fever for her, I had a feeling we’d be visiting the doctor soon. The next day, we arrived at the pediatrician’s office with a fever of 104, along with many other post-holiday sick families. After running through her symptoms and checking her out, her doctor tested for influenza.

“Well, what do you mean? She had the flu shot.” I remember asking. And that’s when I learned that even if you get immunized, it’s still possible to get the flu. However, it may not be as bad as it would have been without the immunization.

Did you know that — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — there are many different influenza viruses that circulate each year? The flu shot protects against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common. I can’t imagine being involved in that kind of research and how hard it would be to predict what the varying strains may be.

Unfortunately, there are still cases where people get infected despite being vaccinated and Evelyn was likely one of them as she was diagnosed with Influenza B.

She spent the next several days very, very sick. At times, her fever spiked to 105 even on the Tamiflu prescription she was given, in addition to alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen. She slept on the couch for days on end, and we pumped her full of fluids and tried to get her to eat anything fearing dehydration. It was a very scary time not knowing if her fever would continue to climb, especially during the evenings. She ended up missing over a week of her preschool.

In our case, catching her symptoms somewhat early and starting a prescription of Tamiflu, in addition to being vaccinated, helped what could have been an even more serious illness and higher fever, which was scary enough.

This year, getting vaccinated was on top of our fall checklist. Even though Evelyn became ill last winter, knowing and having watched her fight it, I would never want to risk having our family unprotected when there’s something available to help prevent influenza.

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