Do I need a flu shot?
November 19, 2013 1:44 PM   Subscribe

According to the CDC, the answer is yes. But wait, there's more inside!

I haven't had a flu shot in since I was a teenager because I hate needles. Haaaaate them. Any time I know that I have to get a shot or have blood drawn I am crippled with anxiety for days ahead of time, with all the nausea and insomnia that that entails. On many an embarrassing occasion I, a grown-ass woman, have broken down and cried in the doctor's office right before being stuck. I would truthfully rather have the flu than have the flu shot, as ridiculous as that sounds.

I also have just had a baby! Baby McCatburglar is 3.5 months old. All those people who told me that the whole experience of childbirth (and especially the epidural) would get rid of my fear of needles were lying liars who lied.

Recently some lovely, thoughtful, selfless friends told me that they were getting flu shots because they see Baby McCatburglar all the time, which made me think, oh my god, do I need one too? I am very careful about not touching my face and washing my hands after being in public, and now that I'm on maternity leave, I won't be using public transport every day (I won't be using it at all). I think that I'm at a very low risk for getting the flu (and then passing it on), but I could be deluding myself.

I know that YANMD, but can I be extra cautious and skip the flu shot? Or should I bite the bullet and get one?
posted by lollymccatburglar to Health & Fitness (71 answers total)
Bite the bullet and get one. Presumably you will be coming into contact with other kids and babies (through doctors offices, for one), and it's better not to pass the flu onto those kids or your own.
posted by jaguar at 1:47 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just get the darn flu shot. It'll potentially save you the hassle of a flu and save your kid a potentially life-threatening illness.
posted by The Michael The at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

If I were you I would get one, yeah. You go to the grocery store, and so do sick people. You are the herd immunity for your kid until your kid can get his own flu shot.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

You may be able to get a nasal spray instead. Check with your doctor.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

Nasal Spray. Flu vaccine without a needle.
Here's what the CDC says
posted by atomicstone at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

Bite the bullet. Look into the nasal spray. Your baby can't get the shot until 6 months. So you and any other close adult or child protect the baby by getting the shot AND limiting exposure/wash wash washing all hands all the time.
posted by Swisstine at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get one.

Ask for someone to hold your hand or give you a lollipop or have a counselor on standby or whatever you need to do to get through it, but get it.
posted by zizzle at 1:49 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

can your doctor give you something for the anxiety before hand, and maybe your husband/partner/friend can drive you to and fro?

there's also the nasal spray.

i used to hate needles too. for a while, before they did it, i would calm myself down by closing my eyes and deep breathing. now it's basically nothing for me.
posted by koroshiya at 1:50 PM on November 19, 2013

Get the shot.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:51 PM on November 19, 2013

I know it is still a needle, but the flu shot needle is incredibly small and will not feel like the IVs etc you had at the hospital.
posted by Swisstine at 1:52 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

My brother got the flu (with the rest of my family) when he was five. We were all sick, but he was SUPER SICK. He lost 15 pounds. As a five year old. It was really scary. I can't even imagine what it would have been like if he had been a baby. Our family has gotten flu shots every single year since without fail.

Please get vaccinated.
posted by phunniemee at 1:54 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

I never get the flu shot. I never get the flu. My baby is the same age as yours and has been in daycare for almost a month already (in flu season!). Neither of us have gotten the flu yet. (He is exclusively breastfed, though.)

I'm going to say, don't get the shot if you don't want to. Unless your baby is fed formula, then I'd lean towards getting the shot.

posted by jillithd at 1:54 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Herd immunity. Get the nasal spray; failing that, get the shot.
posted by Etrigan at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get the shot.

You may rather get the flu than get a shot, but I feel pretty sure that you would rather get a shot than see your infant suffer the flu.
posted by Pax at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Get the shot. This is not the last thing you will not want to do but will do anyway because it is the right thing and you are a parent.
posted by OmieWise at 1:58 PM on November 19, 2013 [20 favorites]

Go for the nasal spray if you can but if not the needles seem to have gotten smaller this year. I got mine at the grocery store and it seemed less painful than it used to be. If you can relax your arm, it helps. Also you could try calling you doctor and say you have a needle phobia and could you please have some valium/ativan to take the morning before (probably depending on if you're breast feeding or not).
posted by BoscosMom at 1:58 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get the shot. Don't look at the needle. Look at something else, think about something else. But get the shot. Really.
posted by janey47 at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2013

Get the shot.

I had an intradermal shot, and it was a zillion times less painful than a regular needle. I don't have a needle phobia, so YMMV.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2013

Mind over matter. You probably suffer more extreme pain on a daily basis than what a shot gives you. Do you pluck your eyebrows? Have you ever bitten your cheek while chewing? Stubbed your toe? Burned your finger?

I used to hate needles too but then I had to go to India and Jakarta on separate occasion. Before each trip, I went to the International Health Center and received three shots in one go! Damn.. it felt like my arm had been socked by a prize-fighter the next day!

But really, as my roommate tells me when I say it's too cold to ride my bike to work, "Stop being a pussy!"
posted by ReeMonster at 2:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's a tip I've found if you have no choice but to get the shot -

I'm pretty petrified of needles too. But I somehow came up with the idea that when I had to get a shot, I would try telling the nurse a joke while she was doing it. This kept me sufficiently distracted during the actual shot-administration for me to at least get through it.

Flipping it around the other way - having someone else tell YOU a joke -doesn't work, because you can still be freaked out and not pay attention. But if you're the one telling THEM a joke, you're forced to concentrate on something other than what's happening. And if it's a joke, it's a funny thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on November 19, 2013

Get the nasal spray. You do NOT want your baby getting the flu. I never used to get the flu shot; then I got H1N1 in 2009. I was so sick that for a week, my husband had to take off work to take care of me while we put our kid in daycare, and for another week, we had to keep the kid in daycare but I could at least take care of myself. The last time my husband had the flu, his temperature went up to 104.7 and he was having hallucinations. That is how sick we were as healthy, grown-ass adults.
posted by KathrynT at 2:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

> Or should I bite the bullet and get one

Yup! Or a nasal spray if they'll let you have it (my doctor gave my kids it but I was stuck with the shot). Plus you need to get over that needle phobia before your kid has a chance to see it in action. I don't know how needle phobias are treated, but do can you ask your doctor for a referral to someone who can help you with it?

I wonder if EMLA cream would help you any -- it's worth asking about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2013

You won't die from the shot. You won't even feel it if you're not looking. You could die from the flu - most people don't have the flu when they "get the flu"; as above, the real influenza is a disastrous thing to come down with. Why let a silly mental block get in your way?
posted by kcm at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2013

I asked my doctor for the flu shot, and after confirming I didn't have asthma, she gave me the nasal spray (even though I would have preferred the shot, I hate stuff in my nose). It has 4 strains and live virus, so from what I understand they preferred giving it anyway. If you go to an actual doctor's office, I shouldn't think you'd have issues getting the nasal spray.
posted by HermitDog at 2:06 PM on November 19, 2013

Dude, get the shot. No one likes needles. Far fewer people like the idea of giving their baby the flu. You're also going to be miserable even if the baby DOESN'T get the flu if you are insanely sick but still responsible for a baby.

I had H1N1 in 2009 as well, and it was the sickest I have ever, ever been. I didn't fully recover for almost a month. It was AWFUL. I promise you, you would rather get the shot than truly get a bad flu, especially with a baby in the house.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:07 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh and also, when I was a kid, I had a funny doctor. He always smelled of Fritos because he would grab a handful of cornchips before seeing me. I was afraid to get a shot and he told me, "Oh well no, this is a different kind of needle, they nicknamed it Mosquito because you hardly feel it, see?" and boom he gave me the shot. Told my mom about it later, she's like, "Oh he was just playing with you, you got a regular shot."

Smart guy.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:08 PM on November 19, 2013

Nasal spray.

Here's the thing--I passed RSV to my 3 month old, who had bad enough respiratory symptoms to require a nebulizer, coughing hard enough to vomit, that kind of stuff. Passing a serious illness to your infant that was not preventable is a bad feeling. Passing a serious PREVENTABLE illness to my child is a feeling I don't want to ever feel, which is why I now get a flu shot every year, and never got one before.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Bite the bullet. The odds are small this decision might matter, but when it would matter it would matter SO MUCH that you need to suck it up.

I hope the nasal spray is an option. If it is not, may I suggest you bypass your doctor and just go to a grocery store pharmacy today so you don't have time to think about it? Bring someone with you, hold both of their hands if you need to to make yourself look at them while the preparations are being made. It is really the world's tiniest needle; I get kind of a squicked out getting blood drawn even if I don't look but the flu shot doesn't have the same effect now that I have seen and experienced it
posted by charmedimsure at 2:14 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get the nasal spray. I am a huge needle-phobe and got the spray last year as a result.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:16 PM on November 19, 2013

Yes you should definitely get vaccinated.

I'm not sure if the nasal spray is an option for you. I was immunocompromised last year due to illness and I was told that the other members of my household should not receive any live/attenuated vaccines (e.g. the nasal spray flu vaccine) because it could be dangerous to me. Ask your doctor and emphasize that you have an infant in your home.
posted by telegraph at 2:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Who would take care of the baby while you were sick?

If you were both sick?

Are you friends with other people who have babies?

I'm so sorry about your fear -- that's a serious thing. Temple Grandin has said something about fear being even worse than pain. Whatever you can do, or find, or hear, to help with the fear, please consider it.

Good luck to you.
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If this has more to do with a horror of needles than the actual pain, getting the intradermal shot may be really helpful for you. Yes, it is technically a little piece of metal going into your skin, but it doesn't look like a needle (it looks like this) and it doesn't feel like a needle either. The stick is really shallow -- none of that A THING EMBEDDED IN ME feeling of a needle.

Call up all the organizations that offer a flu shot near you, explain your fear of needles, and ask what options they can offer you. And, yes, I also think you need to do it if it really comes to that, but I also think you know that.
posted by ostro at 2:19 PM on November 19, 2013

Nthing yes to the shot! An exhausting/embarrassing afternoon is 100000000x better than a didn't-have-to-be sick baby.
posted by Sullenbode at 2:22 PM on November 19, 2013

You must have the shot.

But, after you have the shot, you must buy yourself a lollipop the size of Jupiter. Or an equivalently large reward.
posted by tel3path at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Get vaccinated!! Vaccinations are one of the miracles of modern medicine, and the flu is terrible. You don't want it, and you certainly don't want to give it to your baby.

I sympathize with your needle phobia. I will echo others above: if available to you, nasal spray! If not, I had the intradermal vaccine this year, and the injection itself really was nearly painless (I did have a slighly itchy lump for a couple days, but it was no big deal).

And (on preview) Tel3path is right; get yourself an appropriate reward afterward for a doing a difficult but necessary thing.
posted by maryrussell at 2:27 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes you must have the shot. This has been covered here. Not just for your baby, but for the babies at daycare and the grocery store whose parents cannot get vaccinated for whatever reason.

Additionally, you need to get therapy for the needle phobia pronto, because you will pass this on to your kid. And you need to not do that. Please talk to your general practitioner or you pediatrician about finding someone who can treat you for this fear. It is treatable.
posted by bilabial at 2:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not to put too fine a point on it, but babies are particularly at risk of dying from the flu. Last flu season 165 little kids died of the flu. The shot is literally nothing compared to that possibility.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I got a flu shot on Friday. I do not like needles either. I honestly did not feel it. They injected the stuff into my upper left arm, I looked the other way, and it was over in a flash. My arm felt slightly bruised for a couple of days, and is now all better. Just do it.
posted by mareli at 2:32 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a person who likes health but is psychosomatically awful with needles, I just would recommend a few things. Eat beforehand. Have a bottle of water. Have a warm garment to put on. I get the shivers after shots, even thought I know that it's going to be fiiiine. Tell the person giving you the shot that you're bad with needles. They'll probably talk about something else while you look away. Repeating this for a few years in a row has made me slightly better with needles. Slightly.
posted by Phredward at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2013

Get the flu shot. The single and only reason not to get a flu shot is if you are allergic and/or have had a serious reaction to the flu shot in the past. Note that feeling a little under the weather for a day does not constitute a serious reaction.

Any other reason is far outweighed by doing your part for the compact of society.
posted by Justinian at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2013

It's totally up to you. You have the right to calculate risk in your own life.

Saying "Last flu season 165 little kids died of the flu" as someone said above is totally misleading. I mean, first of all, the CDC says there were two pediatric flu deaths last year in the US. Second, flu deaths primarily impact those who are already immune compromised.

The H1N1 outbreak was frightening because 75 pregnant women died - not your usual demographic of dropping dead from flu. But of those, half had another udnerlying condition.

Last year's flu vaccine had strikingly poor efficacy, and there are researchers and scientists who absolutely are NOT anti-science people questioning the efficacy of the flu vaccine in general.

I'm not saying don't get a vaccine. I had it myself this year.

I am saying, if you chose not to, you are not anti-science, selfish, stupid, weird, bad, etc.

It's totally up to you.
posted by latkes at 3:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Get the shot. Like, the actual needle version. I've tried the nasal spray, and honestly, the stuffy nose and headache that I got for a couple hours afterwards sucked considerably more than just manning up and getting stuck.
posted by fifthrider at 3:03 PM on November 19, 2013

Maybe things are totally different up here in canadaland, but my family doctor and my kids pediatrician both do not recommend the flu shot.
So do your own research and be confident in making your own conclusions instead of basing your families health choices on personal anecdotes from strangers on the internet.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 3:06 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder if EMLA cream would help you any -- it's worth asking about.

I second the recommendation for EMLA cream... it helped my needle-averse husband tolerate a blood draw. If you put it on 15-20 minutes before the shot, your arm should be pretty numb. You will feel the needle but it won't really hurt.
posted by barnoley at 3:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, she linked to the CDC's website in her question. It's pretty clear she wants personal anecdotes. It's not like any of us outrank the CDC.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Pediatric flu deaths. Two so far during the current flu season, which has barely started. 169 during the last flu season. I'm not sure if latkes is deliberately trying to downplay how serious the flu can be for young children, but there were absolutely not two deaths during the last flu season. The flu is dangerous for babies and the only way we can protect them is to protect ourselves.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:13 PM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

The flu is dangerous for babies and the only way we can protect them is to protect ourselves.

It's also dangerous for anyone who is immunocompromised, such as people who are HIV+ or undergoing chemotherapy. Herd immunity literally saves lives.
posted by scody at 3:26 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is PURELY anecdotal because all medical science declares that you cannot get sick from the flu shot: I'm 43. I got a flu shot for the first time in my life last winter. I was sick from Oct. 13 to mid-February with the following ailments:

1. Ear infection (never had one before, not even as a child)
2. Strep throat (ditto above)
3. Bell's Palsy (!!!!! -- ditto above).

I know there is not supposed to be a direct connection but you can bet your bottom dollar that I am sleeping more, washing my hands more often, working out, taking my vitamins -- and skipping the flu shot this year.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 3:27 PM on November 19, 2013

I dislike shots (but stop short of phobic) and I get a flu shot every year. The last couple of years I've barely sweated them, so dinky is the needle. A finger pinch on the hand hurts as much as a flu shot these days. Several years ago, I had the BEST nurse give me my shot. I told her I was nervous, and she said, "Oh? Nothing to worry about, I promise, it won't hurt, blah blah....." and kept chatting as she rubbed my arm with a cotton ball. Then she said, "OK-done." I said, "Yeah, OK, my arm's prepped....I'm, uh, ready." She smiled and said triumphantly, "No- I'm done with the shot! I snuck it in while I was "prepping" your arm!" I was shocked. That really brought home how much of the 'pain' was in my mind. The nurse also mentioned she'd worked as a pediatric nurse for thirty years, so perhaps you could arrange a shot for yourself from one of your daughter's nurses. That woman was an artist.
posted by but no cigar at 3:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm pregnant and have a 2.5 yr old who isn't in daycare, just home with me, so he's not a major disease vector.

I got the flu shot because I have a very good friend who caught the flu last year, was hospitalized, and spent 6wks with pneumonia. The "actual flu" is much worse than we think because so many bad colds and other viruses have been mislabeled as "flus."

When I thought about the cost/benefit - getting the flu shot and knowing I won't catch influenza was worth it to me because if I *did,* I would be putting my fetus at risk and even if my toddler son didn't catch it, I wouldn't be able to properly care for him if I'm hospitalized. There are so many health risks I can't do anything about, I felt like it would be irresponsible to my family for me not to do something as simple as getting a flu shot.

Which reminds me that I need to call the pediatrician and get my son's shot scheduled...
posted by sonika at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe come at this in a different way. How do you want your kiddo to react to shots? I was like you before I had kids: absolutely, heart-stoppingly terrified of shots. I would have panic attacks. I once accidentally kicked a nurse in the chest because I was so freaked out about getting a shot.

Then I had kids who needed to have vaccinations. I decided to stop the crazy nonsense and just deal with shots. I always took my kids with me when I had blood draws or shots and I never, ever made a big deal about it. I wanted them to be fear-free when it came to injections. I believe the exposure they had to my unreactions and my own "No big deal, time to get a shot" attitude about their vaccinations have made them absolutely nonchalant about shots.

So think of your baby as a school aged kid, a high schooler, an adult: how do you want her/him to react to shots? Show your kid that it's no big deal. Teach your child to control and conquer the fear. You can do this.
posted by cooker girl at 4:08 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask for a butterfly needle. They are more costly, so they are used less, but they are less invasive than regular needles. I get a flu shot every year with one, and I don't have problems getting dizzy as I did with the others.
posted by effluvia at 4:15 PM on November 19, 2013

Yes. Flu can kill your baby. You are probably more afraid of that than needles.
posted by elizeh at 4:19 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nasal spray if you can get it; if not, the majority of people under age 60 are given the 'intradermal' --- that's the version with the new really tiny needle..... I swear that thing isn't even as long as the spike on a pushpin!

It's like any other vacination: if everyone who *can* do it gets, for instance, the measles/mumps/rubella vacination, then it creates what's called herd immunity, and helps protect even the people who (for medical or age reasons) CAN'T be vacinated. Think of it as sort of building a protective wall around Baby McCatburglar: a protective wall made up of all the people who have vacinations and are standing between Baby McC. and the flu. The more people with vacinations, the bigger and stronger and taller that wall will be, and the safer Baby McCatburglar will be.
posted by easily confused at 4:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your baby can't get the flu shot until she's 6 months old. The flu can kill her. Therefore, not getting the flu shot would be pretty incredibly selfish of you.

By the way, if you were pregnant last flu season, you should have gotten the flu shot then, too. My OB told me that every year a few pregnant women die of the flu. Your immune system is compromised by pregnancy. Not really relevant now, but for future reference.
posted by amro at 5:00 PM on November 19, 2013

Push for the nasal spray but if for some reason, you have to get the shot, ask for it in the triceps vs the biceps. Just as effective, not as painful!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2013

You really need to get over your fear of needles, or at least learn how to control it. If only for your baby. There are other vaccines and injections your child will likely need through the next couple of years and your demeanour during those times will be incredibly important.

Anecdotally, please get the shot. I'm immunosuppressed as a result of medicines I take to manage an autoimmune disease. I'm not supposed to have any live virus vaccines. So I'm now dependent on the herd to keep me relatively safe from many common illnesses.

Also, I self-inject 1-2 times a week along with an IV infusion every so often and have blood tests run monthly. I wasn't a big fan of needles before this all started, but you do learn to live with it.
posted by michswiss at 5:38 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You should get immunized in some way--your baby is depending on you (if you breastfeed) for antibodies and to not pass it on. Unless someone in your household is pregnant or immunocompromised (being a baby doesn't count), you should be able to get the nasal spray, if not, the intradermal shot is indeed less painful.

You asked for anecdotes--as noted above, a lot of people with the "flu" just have random cold viruses. Everyone I've ever seen with swab-confirmed influenza has been sure they were about to die, they feel so miserable (and these are mostly young healthy people).
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 5:41 PM on November 19, 2013

I'm terrified of needles, but through having four kids, and all the associated blood draws, plus an IV for each that we never even used, but that I was required to have just in case - I've learned to control myself and sit there, at least. I even made it through a spinal tap - yes, really - all by my lonesome, with just the doctor and nurse there - and didn't die of fright.

My oldest (son, 17) is *really* bad about needles. Heck, the first time he passed out, it wasn't even a needle - it was that puff of air into the eyes that they do at the optometrist's. He's passed out a few times since. He goes because he knows he needs to, and we make sure he's laying down or leaning back, and it works out ok.

There's only been two years out of his lifetime that we haven't gotten flue shots. Several years back, the year there were shortages - and last year, because we just never got around to it. Both those years, we've gotten the flu - me, extremely bad.

Last year was a nightmare. Me and all four kids came down sick within about three hours of each other. It was the quietest week ever here. Nobody talked, nobody cooked. My mom dropped off, on the doorstep, some necessary supplies - tylenol, ibuprofen, decongestant, plus a restock of tea, ramen and cup o noodle soup, because occasionally someone would find the energy to boil water.

The doesn't-like-school-15yo was wishing he felt well enough to get off the couch and do schoolwork; the needle-paranoid was saying the flu shot would be SO.MUCH.BETTER... and me, once I finally managed to get to the doctor, was in pretty poor shape. So much so that I was told by my doctor to consider myself in the absolutely-MUST-get-flu-shot category. (Special health circumstances that affect how my body does with the symptoms.)

I did. The needle was tiny. Not sure if that was the pharmacist's choice, or the way it comes, but it was almost impossible to feel, and had zero soreness or pain in the area of the shot. (Which I've never had not happen before.)

Kids still haven't got theirs and need to. We just lost way too much time to being sick last year. Between the six of us, we racked up about 11 doctor visits... granted, most of that was me, but still. Last year's bug, at least in this area, seemed to *really* like turning into pneumonia and bronchitis. Pretty sure my sis, her husband, and her twins somehow managed to get two separate strains, about three weeks apart - the first, the twins gave us, and the second, no way in heck were any of us going near them to risk it.

Oddly enough, I finally found the guts this year to give blood, figuring I'd do it once and never again. Instead, I talked my scared-of-needles kid into doing it, too. Once. Next time up is a week from Friday, and it sounds like he's going to give it another whirl.
posted by stormyteal at 6:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pediatric flu deaths. Two so far during the current flu season, which has barely started. 169 during the last flu season. I'm not sure if latkes is deliberately trying to downplay how serious the flu can be for young children, but there were absolutely not two deaths during the last flu season. The flu is dangerous for babies and the only way we can protect them is to protect ourselves.

I apologize. You're right. I absolutely mis-read the statistic I quoted as last year's.

Looking over the CDC report for last year, I'm seeing this:

For the 2012–13 influenza season, 149 laboratory-confirmed, influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported....The deaths included 11 children aged less than 6 months, 20 aged 6–23 months, 20 aged 2–4 years, 52 aged 5–11 years, and 46 aged 12–17 years; mean and median ages were 8.2 years and 8.1 years, respectively.

I still feel the poster can make a personal choice on this issue. Most pediatric deaths happen to older children with other risk factors - so influenza is not the sole "cause" of death. Also, the flu vaccine is probably only about 60% effective overall (with yearly variation depending on what strains end up being dominant in the community).

There is not only one moral, science-based decision to make about the flu vaccine.
posted by latkes at 6:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wonder if a doctor would prescribe you a small dose of Xanax for getting shots, like people are prescribed anti-anxiety pills for flying. I do agree that you should get the flu shot, but your anxiety is real, and it's great that you're attempting to deal with it for your baby's sake. A close relative of mine has a fear of needles, which caused him to go decades without a physical, much to my family's dismay. Maybe it's a small dose of Xanax is option to explore with your doctor? Shot phobia can't be all that uncommon.
posted by dovesandstones at 6:14 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is not only one moral, science-based decision to make about the flu vaccine.

You're correct. There are a couple of moral, science-based decisions you can make. You can get the dead virus shot or you can get the attenuated live virus nasal spray. Those are both science based choices.

Not getting vaccinated in the absence of an allergy is not, however, science-based.
posted by Justinian at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

You're lucky! You didn't get the vaccine while pregnant, so now you may have the option of the nasal spray instead of the shot (which is verboten in pregnancy because it uses attenuated viruses, not inactivated viruses). Ask your doctor and/or your pediatrician.

I'm pregnant and I'm around my newborn nephew all the time, so I speak from the heart when I say GET THE FLU VACCINE ASAP.
posted by lydhre at 6:40 PM on November 19, 2013

Anecdotally, the flu is hell. It's hard for me to believe you know how awful the flu is, if you'd rather get the flu than get a shot. No matter how phobic you are. (And I am quite familiar with having phobias.) My grandmother was friends with a young woman who died of the flu a few years ago. No one saw it coming. Her husband came home to find her in respiratory distress, and she never recovered.

I'm pregnant and asthmatic, so I got my flu shot. My needle-phobic husband got his flu shot, too. He specifically requested it, on account of our upcoming child. And I'm going to get the Tdap again pretty soon - which that is one of the few vaccines that I do dread, for totally irrational, phobic reasons. But that doesn't matter. It's not about me, it's about my kid. I couldn't imagine gambling with their health that way, just due to my own issues.

And you are, indeed, deluding yourself that just washing your hands and avoiding public transport will prevent the flu. The virus is airborne. In addition, the flu shot really won't you get sick. You won't get the flu from it. Nor will you develop any diseases that are caused by completely different, living pathogens. So no strep throat, no ear infections, none of that.

I have a great deal of empathy for phobias. But for the sake of your baby, you don't have an excuse to skip this shot.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:22 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The flu is really really really bad, at best. It is deadly at worst. Yes! Get the vaccine! You can target the vaccine availability search to "nasal spray only" on this map: But may also want to call ahead to the pharmacies/location listed, to double check that it is in to save even more time getting it!
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:34 PM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: Jesus christ, I'll get a flu shot! You are all absolutely right that it is the only thing to do. I don't live in the US, and in my region the nasal spray is officially only for under-18s, but I'm on good terms with my pharmacist, so perhaps she can hook me up. I will stop by tomorrow and ask.

It is hard to pick a best answer. Thank you all.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

The flu vaccine is not something I would rely on (and haven't been, despite having had the flu), its effectiveness varying year-to-year from 50% to 75% last time I checked.

Given that you are taking care of a child for whom the flu is quite dangerous, get the shot.

In addition to getting the shot, be vigilant and be aware of the varying personal behaviors that reduce/increase the chances of exposure, the shot isn't going to be a magic shield that keeps you or your child from getting the flu.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:51 AM on November 20, 2013

Can your doctor give you some Xanax beforehand? I feel your pain although my needle phobia has improved a lot with age. But seriously you are basically having a full on panic attack, get some Xanax beforehand.
posted by whoaali at 6:06 AM on November 20, 2013

> The flu vaccine is not something I would rely on (and haven't been, despite having had the flu), its effectiveness varying year-to-year from 50% to 75% last time I checked

Just so nobody uses that as an excuse to avoid getting the vaccine: while its effectiveness isn't as good as for other vaccines, that still cuts your chances of getting it in half (or better). And if you've had the vaccine and still get the flu, you're probably not going to get as sick as if you didn't get vaccinated at all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:22 AM on November 20, 2013

Get the shot. YOU might rather get the flu than get the shot. But what are you going to do when you get the flu and can't go near your baby for a week? Who is feeding the baby? Who is taking care of the baby? And if both you and the baby get the flu, are you going to be able to drag yourself out of bed to take the baby to the doctor? And then to the pharmacy to get medicine? I'm not even mentioning the dangers of a 4 month old getting the flu.

This is coming from someone who has never gotten the flu shot. I hate needles and would rather get the flu. But if there was a risk of me infecting someone I care about with a weaker immune system, I would get the shot for them.
posted by at 8:27 AM on November 20, 2013

You probably need an mmr booster if you're over 23 /nurse
posted by syncope at 11:14 PM on November 21, 2013

« Older Naked Lunch   |   Build a Doll? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.