Wellness: Getting The Flu Shot—A Dilemma

October 31 2012, 1:22 PM

Last night, I slept on the sofa. Not because I was relegated to the proverbial “couch city” after a fight, but because my husband is laying in bed in a feverish, sweaty state, with a trash can by the nightstand. Despite the mild weather and pile of blankets, he’s asked me repeatedly to turn on the heat because he’s cold. He couldn’t stomach the requested chicken noodle soup or Jell-O I brought. His breathing is short and labored. And his last words before drifting back into restless slumber were “I’m just so achy…but I’ll be better tomorrow.”

Three little letters: F-L-U.  We don’t know this for sure yet, but I’d be willing to put money on it. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s most recent weekly Colorado Flu Report, flu season has been under surveillance this year since October 7, and the incidence is still very low in Colorado. But this one came on in a hurry, and fits the bill: Yesterday morning he got up and was fine; by midday he’d been reduced to an invalid. This is concerning to me for two reasons (beyond, you know, his suffering): 1. He’s had a flu shot—a necessity when you work in a hospital. 2. I have not. Nor have I ever had a flu shot.

Let’s start with number two. Why haven’t I been vaccinated? One reason: I. Hate. Needles. I would rather bang my head against the wall than get a shot. On those occasions when I don’t have a choice—mostly immunizations for overseas travel—the poor nurse has to endure my repeated anticipatory arm spasms and generally ends up instructing me to look at the fuzzy bunny picture on the wall across the room to distract me, like I’m five years old. Yes, I realize that I’m being stubborn and irrational, and that I’m jeopardizing my health because I can’t be a grownup and summon some mental fortitude. It’s not that I don’t consider it every year and tell myself I know better. But thus far, I've managed to escape unscathed. That’s right—I’ve never had the flu. So, my rationale is: why fix what’s not broken?

Then there's my first concern: Of the two of us, only one has been vaccinated. And yet, only one of us—the very same one who got the shot— is curled up in bed clutching a bottle of Tylenol and a waste basket. It’s not exactly helping the case for this must-have flu shot. What’s a needle-phobic girl supposed to think?

Yes, there’s the nasal spray option. I could tolerate that, as no needles are necessary. But there’s a reason it’s called Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV). There are live viruses in it. And while they say you can’t contract the flu virus from it, there’s up to a 2.4 percent chance that the vaccine viruses could infect someone else with whom you have close contact. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Most health professionals would tell me to stop overthinking, pony up the $20, and get it over with. I know it’s the smart thing to do, and I certainly don’t want to end up like the quarantined charge in our bedroom, so I will think about it. Flu season doesn’t really kick into gear until January anyway. In the meantime…chicken soup to the rescue.

For more information on the flu and vaccines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find the nearest immunization clinic, visit the Colorado Adult Immunization Coalition (CAIC).

Image courtesy of Shutterstock