Fear and Funnies During our Family Flu Shots
Nov 02, 2012

I did it.  I finally did it.  I got all my kids their flu shots last week, despite the many obstacles we encountered along the way.  While it involved some anticipated anxiety, in the end, enduring humor conquered irrational fear.
For the past few years, we’ve been able to walk into a nearby clinic without an appointment, get the FluMist and within 15 minutes walk out knowing that we were doing our part to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Unfortunately, this year hasn’t been so easy.  Having recently moved, I had to establish new care before a doctor would administer a flu shot for my kids.  Since the earliest appointments I could make were over two months away, I spent September and most of October worried that my children would fall victim to influenza before having the chance to be vaccinated. (This actually happened the last time we moved, when my then 8-year-old daughter fell sick with the flu in September).
At first I figured I could just take the kids to the local pharmacy for their shots.  But then I learned that pharmacies in the state I live in can only vaccinate children over the age of fourteen.  Since four of my five kids fall within that category, I was out of luck.
But last week, our day at the doctor’s had finally come and I was relieved to know that my entire family would soon be vaccinated against the flu.
On the way to the appointment, I was chuckling inside as my seven-year old daughter tried to reassure my sixteen year old daughter who was expressing reservations about the shot.  I heard my own mantra repeated in her words of comfort as she explained, “It’s just a pinch and then it’s over.”
However, my 16-year-old was making her last-ditch attempt to convince me that she didn’t need her flu shot that day.  She was even suggesting that we postpone until later in the season when her friend claimed there would be FluMist vaccine available, thereby avoiding the need for a shot in favor of a sniff.  Of course, she knew it was hopeless, as I would never be persuaded by the suggestion that her 16-year-old friend was well-informed regarding the details of the vaccine supply in our area.  But I have to give her credit for her creative persistence.
While the comedy/drama ensued, my second oldest child sat there in silence, suffering with a stomach virus that came on suddenly the night prior.  She is extremely afraid of needles and I’m fairly certain that she was secretly relieved that the timing of her illness would most likely result in the postponement of her flu shot.  Looking back, it’s a good thing that her symptoms didn’t come on in the hours after her shot, for certainly that would have been reason for some seriously misguided individuals to believe that the flu shot can actually make you sick (while the informed person knows that the symptoms of the flu vary greatly from that of a stomach virus and that the flu shot can’t possibly give you the flu).
Moments later we literally burst through the door at the doctor’s office.  The truth is, it’s hard to sneak in under the radar when you arrive somewhere with five chatty girls.   We quickly got acquainted with the staff, the nurse and ultimately the doctor and while there was lots of joking and laughing, I knew that just beneath the giggles my kids were also exhibiting a bit of nervous anxiety.
After the exams, the nurse questioned who would be the first to get their flu shot.    My brave 7-year-old quickly volunteered, repeating my mantra that it would just be a little pinch.  However, as the nurse prepared the vaccine, my daughter caught a glimpse of what I’ll admit was the biggest needle I had ever seen.  At that moment she was big eyed and couldn’t stop staring at the needle.  As we encouraged her not to watch, she gazed at me with a surprised look on her face and an innocent exclamation of

“Oh boy!  Here is goes.”

It was then that I decided to distract her with some photos and before long her apprehension turned into pride as she made her “strong” poses for the camera and declared,

“That didn’t hurt one bit!”

Next up was my oldest daughter, and I suspect her sisters were surprised to see her hesitation as well.  This is the little girl who was trampled by a horse at six years old and jumped right back in the saddle.  This is the pre-teen who all but laughed when she busted her chin on the ice and had to get 15 stitches in her chin.  This was the young lady who has endured more bumps, bruises, slide tackles and injuries through ten years of travel soccer than I care to remember.  Yet, in this moment – in anticipation of the pain of this shot – she was obviously reluctant and fearful.
And then, we were all surprised at what happened next.  As her sick sister started to video tape the scene in an attempt to catch her older sister crying and begging for mercy, we instead heard these words of comfort,

“Oh, that doesn’t even hurt at all.  It’s weird though.  I would have expected it to hurt so much more.”

One by one they each took their turn.  And two days later, once my daughter had recovered from her stomach virus, she too received her flu shot without uttering a sound or shedding a single tear.
It just goes to show that sometimes our fears are irrational.  But we are stronger (and remain healthier) once these fears are overcome. 

If you haven’t had your family vaccinated yet, don’t let fear stand in your way.    Check out the Flu.gov page to locate flu vaccines for your family and do it today.  After all, my daughter will be the first to tell you that

“it’s just a pinch and then it’s over”. 

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6 responses to “Fear and Funnies During our Family Flu Shots”

  1. lilady says:

    Thanks Christine…that’s a great link for flu.gov…just “tried” it, by keying in my zip code.
    Fortunately, I got my flu shot weeks ago…especially when you’re in the area affected by hurricane Sandy and most of my neighborhood has been without power since Sandy blew into town.

  2. John Fryer says:

    A moving story about the flu shot for your children. Were you worried about your own flu shot or did it go with no problems?

  3. Melody RN says:

    Liliady, I too am glad that I received my flu shot before Sandy bore down on my home town. I had enough on my plate to worry about between finding a way place for my four children to stay with hot water. If I had caught influenza- I can’t imagine the additional burden and stress that would have created.
    After the 19th of this month, my youngest will be 6 months old and with all that’s going on here, you bet she has an appointment for a flu shot. Everything and anything I can do to help decrease the odds of my children bearing additional strife and chaos will be done.

  4. lilady says:

    John Fryer: I don’t think any of us who posted here were “worried” about our flu shots. Melody and I were fortunate to have gotten our seasonal influenza vaccine shots before hurricane Sandy hit our area.
    Melody’s young infant will be eligible for the vaccine shortly and her baby will be protected against influenza during the coming flu season. Her baby will require 2 separate shots, this year only:
    “….CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. This is especially important for children because they are at increased risk of getting severe illness
    from flu. (Children younger than 6 months are too young to get vaccinated. Children younger than 9 years getting a flu vaccine for the first time need two doses of vaccine in the first year.)
    Children Younger Than 6 Months at Higher Risk
    Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Also, influenza antiviral drugs (prescription drugs used to treat and prevent flu) are not approved for use in children younger than 1 year. Because children younger than 6 months cannot get a vaccine or take antiviral drugs, but are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, safeguarding them from influenza is especially important. This fact sheet provides advice to help caregivers (for example, parents, teachers, babysitters, nannies) protect children younger than 6 months from the flu….”

  5. Lawrence says:

    @lilady – lots more worried about getting the flu. I have two small kids at home & the last thing any of us need is the flu this year!

  6. […] say that I was very surprised. Concerned yes. But surprised? No. And unfortunately, even though everyone in my family received a flu shot and are up to date on their Tdap boosters, I realize that immunizations are not 100% effective. In […]

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