Public Health PSAPosted: December 18, 2012
Today’s post will be naggy. Apologies. But I saw this story about this year’s flu on our local NPR today, and it got me all kinds of vexed and worried. It’s going to be a bad year for the flu, which is possibly annoying for many of you, possibly scary for us, and most definitely scary for families who have younger kids with respiratory issues.
So I’m climbing on my soapbox (this takes a lot of work because I weigh the most I’ve ever weighed, and have been lying down for seven weeks). Perhaps my soapbox has a chaise lounge on it.
People should get flu shots, because it doesn’t just protect them from a wildly unpleasant illness, it protects people who are very sick and vulnerable, who risk being one of the 3,000-41,000 Americans who die of the flu each year. Most of these people are young children, old people, and people with other health conditions. If a baby is too young to get the flu shot (younger than six months) and has respiratory disease, he is particularly vulnerable to this illness that will further PERMANENTLY damage his already crappy lungs, land him in the hospital, and possibly kill him. So that’s why his parents count on the kindness of others to help contain the spread of flu.
That’s also why if you didn’t get your flu shot, you weren’t allowed to see my child for the first year he was alive. You may have thought I was being crazy, but I was acting on doctor’s orders. Plenty of preemies who make it out of the NICU wind up right back in the hospital, or don’t make it to their first birthdays because of the flu (and other illnesses, but this particular soap box is about the flu). Now their parents, like we did, do their damndest to sequester them. This means they need to be able to afford a stay-at-home parent, like we thankfully could (or they could have a medically trained nanny, I suppose. Probably even more expensive). It means no outings for the baby. It means the parents severely limit the number of people they allow into the home and become the Purell police. It means the parents wash their hands and faces and clothes like crazy every time they come home. It means they shower if they stand near someone who sneezed. It means they are terrified, and rightfully so. And that’s why I think everyone should get a flu shot. To help these parents protect their wee ones. It absolutely won’t give you the flu. It’s recommended for you regardless of what other diseases/conditions you have. In most cases, even if you have an egg allergy, you’re ok to get it (under supervision of an allergist, and obvs. don’t take my word for it).
I could go further in explaining why preemie parents have to be so vigilant about this stuff, but one of my favorite post-preemie blogs, Ain’t No Roller Coaster, did such a bang-up job that I’m just going to send you over there.
Oof. I’m down from my soapbox. And because you were such a good sport, I’ll reward you with a video of Das Big Boy singing “Jingle Bells,” which ends with him saying “‘Blah,’ said Toad,” because at the moment he’s very into a Frog and Toad story about sledding.