I am one of those people who has never had a flu shot. I've gotten the flu a few times and recovered. No big deal. I never wanted to put additional chemicals into my body or to mess with my immune system. I always thought that it's best to let your body do what it was naturally designed to do – fight infections and viruses on its own.
I've also repeatedly refused the flu shot for my 6-year-old daughter. I always figured if she got the flu, it wouldn't be that bad, and she would be fine. A few years ago, she did get the flu. She tested positive for Influenza A. That was the year that H1N1 was a big deal, so it was likely that my daughter had that particular strain. She had a fever, a runny and stuffy nose, and a cough. She complained the first day of feeling tired and achy. But she didn't have any major problems and recovered in less than a week. I was further convinced that flu shots are not necessary for my family. However, now I'm not so sure anymore.
This winter, my whole family got the flu during Christmas vacation. It was a very bad flu that lasted 10 days and included horrible body aches, a fever, chills, stuffy nose, cough and severe fatigue. Not only were we all miserable, we missed out on what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing vacation, with no school or work. We missed Christmas dinner and gift exchanging with our families. We couldn't attend our church's Christmas Eve mass. We were unable to host a New Year's Eve gathering. Our daughter missed out on sledding and building a snowman. We were unable to venture out to the mall, the movies or a bounce house. We basically spent the entire Christmas break cooped up in our house recovering. We did all eventually recover, but the worst part was what happened to my daughter.
Not only did she have a fever for 7 days straight, it shot up to 103.4. To make matters worse, on the fifth day of her illness, she also developed diarrhea. Despite our best efforts, she stopped eating and drinking. She became dehydrated, and her flu progressed into pneumonia. One morning she got up and could hardly walk because she was so weak. She ended up being hospitalized.
As I sat there in the hospital room, looking at my poor, sick baby girl, pale as a ghost with an IV in her arm, I couldn't help but wonder: Did I make the right choice by not getting her a flu shot? Is this my fault? Could this have all been avoided?
I had heard for years about how the flu can be serious. I read all about how some people are hospitalized or even die from it. But I always thought that those were people who had existing health problems or were elderly. I never expected that anything like that could happen to us. I never imagined that my healthy, vibrant daughter could end up in the hospital from the flu. It was a rude awakening – one that left me seriously questioning my beliefs and decisions.
No mother wants to see her child suffer. It is truly heart-breaking. So, I started thinking that maybe next year we will all get a flu shot or try the flu mist. I'm still not sure if this is the right choice. I plan to research these vaccines further before making a final decision. But I do know one thing: I never want to see my daughter suffer like that again. And, I will do everything in my power to protect her and keep her healthy and safe.
What would you do?