To Flu Shot or Not?

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It’s that time of year again. You know, when all of the medical offices around the country start notifying their patients that the “Flu Shot is Now Available” and pharmacies trumpet their capability to administer the flu shot to anyone and everyone.

To Flu Shot or Not is a sticky situation for those of us with egg-allergic children, because the vaccination is cultivated in eggs. (Note: there is an egg-free flu vaccination currently approved for people over 18.)

Each year our allergist urges us to vaccinate Z against the flu because of how it can affect the lungs of asthmatics. And, each year, we’ve politely declined and upped our hand washing regimen during cold and flu season. This worked for us for a few flu seasons.

And then came the Flu of 2012.

It hit us all: Z and I who were both unvaccinated, and hubby who was fully vaccinated. It hit us and it hit us hard.

To Flu Shot or Not

Both Z and I ended up sharing his nebulizer for a week, and I learned firsthand the side effects of albuterol. Jittery, I expected. Racing heart, I kind of expected. Runny nose? Did not expect that.

So, last year, we dutifully determined that, because Z has asthma and H1N1 was the strain going around our neck of the woods, we would sign him up to get his flu shot at the allergist’s office.

Up to this point, we avoided the flu shot for a variety of reasons. And all of them can be pointed right to my crazy imagination that informs an innate ability to write Worst Case Scenario headlines in my head.

So, having read both sides of the flu vaccine debate, I was leaning more toward kowtowing to the headlines that were terribly in favor of not vaccinating. You know, ones like, “Egg allergic child first to suffer anaphylactic reaction to flu vaccine, while contracting Guillain-Barrés Syndrome, while jumping on his bed and breaking the bed frame and making his mom yell at him for the first time in a year.” I think you catch my drift.

Then H1N1 happened. And a friend’s otherwise healthy cousin contracted it and passed. Then we all came down with the Flu of 2012 where absolutely none of us could function, and I felt how it affected my non-asthmatic lungs.

So I decided not to write those headlines in my head anymore, at least last year.

I feel like making the decision to do the flu shot is a hard one for me to make every year. I know in my head what the professionals say—you know, the ones that spent at least 8 years longer than I did studying the human body and all the related stuff—but it also feels like such a raging internal debate, and I can’t really pinpoint why.

Adding to that, knowing that last year Z had to sit in the allergist’s office for four hours and get poked by needles seven different times for one shot that I received in less than 30 seconds from a nurse in my general practitioner’s office…it’s just a lot for an allergy mama to wrap her head around sometimes.

I guess this is something I’ll wrestle with for a while…maybe even every year at this time.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone questioning whether or not to get the flu shot (for loved ones with or without allergies), to see what the CDC has to say about it, and to read information from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology about egg allergies and the flu vaccine. But most of all, if you’re considering the flu shot for an egg-allergic individual, consult with your allergist before you do anything else.

Next week: what to expect at the allergist’s when you get the flu shot.

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

5 Comments to To Flu Shot or Not?

  1. Leigh

    The flu shot is a huge topic lately. We found out about my 3 year old’s allergies after his reaction to the flu shot he recived when he was 15 months old. That reaction was one of the scariest things a first time mom could witness. Our allergiest doesn’t recommend vaccinating our son at this time. Now I have to decide whether or not to vaccinate my infant. The flu shot was the first egg my oldest had ever had

    • Tiffany Self

      Hi Leigh, Thanks for sharing. It is definitely a different animal when you’re considering an egg-allergic child for the shot. And I can only imagine how terrible it must have been to watch your little guy react to it! Best wishes as you make the decision for your littlest one!

  2. Amy Francis

    Hi Tiff! So Sadie has had the flu shot 2 years in a row and both years she had a reaction to it, missing 3 days of school. It makes me leary and I hate putting things in my kids that they might not need. And that I know they might react to. My parents are pushing hard for me to do it again this year, but I feel such internal resistance like you described. Sadie has asthma too,but I’m so conflicted! Nate just grew out of his egg allergy so I feel I can take that worry off the table. I’m so Paranoid about the vaccine but just as paranoid about getting the flu…and enterovirus…

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