Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roll up your sleeve and shut up about it

Hi, I am your friendly neighborhood nurse (in training), and I am here to tell you about something really important that you might not want to hear.  Ready?

No really.
I get that this will upset some people.  I get it.  And you still need to hear it.

But, I never get the flu shot, and I never get the flu.

Uh-huh.  And if someone told you that they never use condoms and have yet to contract an STI, would you...applaud them and wish them well?  Think to yourself, "Wow, excellent logic, I'm going to stop gloving the love and take that kind of chance too!"  I'm guessing not.  I'm guessing you'd think to yourself something along the lines of, "That is so awesome for you until the day that you DO start oozing fluid and scratching sores at which point I will have no sympathy for you."  Assuming you can dodge the flu when there is an easy way to drastically decrease your chances of catching it is using logic that a four-year-old can walk circles around.

But I am young/healthy/not around sick people/not going to catch it/invincible/made of Kevlar.

Fine.  But your 2-year-old niece isn't.  And neither is your elderly neighbor.  And neither is the pregnant woman sitting in front of you on the bus, or the cancer patient who has just finished a round of chemo who you're shaking hands with at a dinner.  You may very well not catch the flu, even if you are exposed to it, but you can certainly pass the germs on to others who are far more immunocompromised than you - and who even if they have received the flu shot, may not have the immune systems capable of mounting an appropriate response - and now you've just shat all over them. Way to go, you.

But this one time, I got the flu shot, and three days later I got sick.

This is my favorite one.  First of all, flu season is all-germ-season.  Chances are, it was coincidence that you got the flu shot and then came down with some sort of virus - probably a cold, but lots of people call anything the "flu" even when it is not caused by the influenza virus.  Tough titties for you.  Second of all, the flu vaccine is not perfect!  You very well might have caught the flu.  But having the shot made sure that you suffered a lot less than if you hadn't gotten it, because you developed a bit of immunity before you contracted the virus.  Immunity takes about two weeks to develop, which is why we recommend that people get flu shots in November.  Before flu season starts.  Third of all, you did not - DID NOT - get the flu from the flu vaccine.  You didn't.  It is impossible.  The flu vaccine by injection is a dead virus.  As in, it is scientifically impossible for the virus to replicate in your body and make you sick because it is already dead.  The nasal spray vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine that also won't get you sick because the virus has been chemically weakened before use.  Even so, if you are nervous about this, ask for the injection.  Very simple.

About a week and a half ago, both my roommate, H. and the boy came down with this year's flu.  Presumably, they each caught it separately on two different airplanes.  Hear me when I tell you how sick they were: extremely.  H. was on the couch for days, coughing up mucus, running a fever that could cook eggs, taking Tylenol around the clock and drowning in misery.  The boy was in a similar situation.  Both of them are young, strapping, otherwise healthy individuals and they were incapacitated by this illness.  This year's flu is a bad one.  It's killing people.  I didn't mind taking care of either of them - I'm a nurse, it's kind of my job and also I love them - but you can bet your polka dot panties that I didn't even get a throat tickle because oh yes, I got my flu shot three months ago.

Vaccinations are a public health concern.  Let's think globally and act responsibly by shouldering our portion of the responsibility for keeping everyone healthy.  Get the flu shot and get on with your life.


Anonymous said...

You are so right girl. My company requires us to get a shot or sign a waiver. The number one reason not to get the shot - "I got it once and got the flu from it". So, so sick of hearing that.

I don't know you but I read your blog every day. I am so proud of your accomplishments. My daughter has gone through similar trials as yours, and she just became a NP. So I really, really relate to you and also have somewhat of an idea how hard it's been for you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you THANK YOU for this. I picked up the flu - the REAL flu - not what people just claim is the flu, three weeks ago, and due to health issues, I am now battling potentially life threatening complications. At the height of the flu, I have never been so sick and incapacitated in my life. At this point, I do not know if i will ever get back to my baseline health. Please get a flu shot people. You do not know the devastating effects flu can have to those around you.