Science – Have You Had Your Flu Shot?

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As someone who studied life sciences for 4 years in college before turning to the social sciences in grad school, I feel like I have slightly more authority than your average librarian when I say that you should get your flu shot.  Vaccines have been proven to work, so this is not really up for debate, but we are approaching flu seasons, and I’m going to use my tiniest of platforms to encourage you to get your flu shot if you haven’t already.  This is partly for selfish reasons, and that’s because this past January, I got the flu, and this is my story.

But wait, you say, weren’t you pregnant?  I was – and 33 weeks to be exact.  My journal from the time just before I was diagnosed says,

I’ve been feeling miserable since Thursday evening, with chest congestion and coughs, which have added on a raspy throat and a runny nose as time passes.  No fun at all.  Ricola + mucinex + tea is my killer combo that makes things a little better.

Little did I know that this wasn’t just a cough/cold.  The symptoms that would have indicated flu when combined with the ones I described above – chills and body aches – are ones that are not unusual during pregnancy, so I thought nothing of it.  Until I woke up super early on Sunday morning with a killer headache, did some googling, and and decided that as soon as I woke properly that morning I would call my OB since I now suspected I might have the flu.  Thank goodness I did, because she said I should go to Urgent Care to get tested since waiting for an appointment the next day would be too late.  I did, and the flu rapid test – which normally takes 15 minutes to come back with a result – came back in about 5 minutes as super positive for flu.  And this was despite getting my flu shot in the fall, because the strain of flu that circulated last winter during the time that I got it (I was told it was probably Influenza A H3N2) was not a great match to the flu shot that was given.

I was prescribed Tamiflu, and then promptly had an impossible time finding it, because this was apparently the peak time for getting the flu.  My prescription was called in to one location, and they didn’t have any.  It was called into a second location, and they didn’t have any either.  It was called into a third location, and they called me back to say they didn’t have any, and I lost my shit.  I had been told that Tamiflu is most effective when administered within the first 48-72 hours of symptoms showing, and I was just barely going to make that time period if I got my pills that afternoon.  So I cried on the phone to the pharmacist, said “I’m 33 weeks pregnant and I don’t have time to mess around” and basically MADE him do the rest of the calling to other local pharmacies within 10 miles to see who might have any Tamiflu left.  He agreed, and called me back 15 minutes later to say that a location not too far from us would have some waiting for the Boy to pick up for me.  I’m proud to say that was really the only time I pulled the, “I’m pregnant, and I cannot deal with this garbage” card, and if there ever was a time to do that, it’s when you have the flu.

This very pregnant lady feels miserable.

I spent the next two days in bed, hydrating, checking my temperature regularly, because having a fever above a certain temperature is dangerous for pregnant women, and can be a cause of premature labor which I DID NOT WANT.  And then on Wednesday, when I felt marginally better but was still looking like the above picture, I went back to work.  Because I was no longer infectious, but also because I could not afford to lose any more sick days which I would need to use for maternity leave (that’s a whole other issue which I may rant on in the future).

Baby B and I came out of that situation fine.  But two months later when the Boy got the flu, I was so thankful that I had both had my flu shot the previous October, and had passed along the antibodies I had created in response to the flu to Baby Girl.  This was during the critical first few months of her life when I felt like I was hanging on by a thread in general.  The Boy had spent a couple evenings as her primary caregiver while I slept (because I couldn’t not sleep), and with care not to cough on her, and using sanitizing gel whenever he could, we managed to get through that situation, but it was so hard.  I remember when we were back in the Urgent Care with a tiny baby, and getting the Boy tested for the flu, and the doctors looking at us like, “WHY DID YOU BRING HER IN HERE?” but we didn’t have a lot of choice.

In any case – that’s my story.  I’m pretty confident that had I not gotten my flu shot, I would have been even more miserable with the flu, and it would have been more dangerous for the baby.  Baby girl got her flu shot (and booster!) as soon as it was available at the doctors office.  I got mine a week later at work.  The Boy has had his shot, and the girls either have had theirs already, or will soon (their mom is in charge of that).  If you’re hesitating to get the shot or not, don’t.  Just get it.  There are so many reasons you should.  Do it for all those babies who can’t get their shots yet.  Or other children who aren’t able to get vaccinated because of immune issues.  Get it because the more people who get the flu shot, the greater our herd immunity will be.  Do it because you believe in science.  And especially – do it because even though you haven’t had the flu before, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it someday.  And you don’t want to be a statistic in an article like this in future years.

Details: For more information on the flu.

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