Vaccine Overdose: What the Reaction Means (or Finding the Silver Lining)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I am pro-immunization. I believe immunization is the safest, most cost-effective way to protect my children (and yours) and keep them healthy. So, writing this post has been an interesting exercise in telling it like it is.
In November, I took Lil C and Lil D to our family doc’s office for their annual influenza immunizations. Lil D was also due for his DTaP-IPV 4-6 year old booster (the shot that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio; between 4 and 6 years of age, the immunity gained from the earlier shots begins to wane).
The boys were not looking forward to this experience and they got each other more and more worked up to the point where they were both crying, begging and pleading for me to take them home.
The experienced, but not particularly helpful nurse left the exam room to go prepare the three syringes. As she left, I was getting Lil D ready. But when she came back, I had Lil C sitting with me on the exam table. She was visibly harried and curtly instructed me how to hold him tight.
And she injected him. With the booster shot that was meant for Lil D. Not the influenza immunization that was meant for Lil C.
The second after she did it, I knew she had made a mistake. I asked her. She confirmed. She felt terrible. I felt nauseous. Lil C and Lil D were screaming.
The nurse went and got the doctor. She assured me that it would be okay and helped me to get the influenza shots into the 2 boys and the booster that was meant for Lil D into his arm. It took all I had to let them do this. But the thought of the anxiety that another visit would cause was too much to bear.
I gave the boys chocolate before and after their shots. They were both in their undershirts with snot and tears streaming down the faces running together with the melted chocolate around their mouthes. They looked like little street urchins.
And then Lil C’s arm swelled and got red and itchy.
We watched him for a few minutes and it seemed to get a bit better. I took the boys home. I was seething inside but trying to remain calm and nurturing for the boys.
Lil D told me he will not be like that next time he gets a shot because it wasn’t that bad.
Lil C got lots of cuddles and some ibuprofen. He woke up that night with a sore arm and got more analgesic.
Forty-eight hours later, this is what his arm looked like.
The morning after I took these photos, we had an appointment with the allergist for testing (since his brother, Lil D, has nut allergies). I asked the allergist to take a look at his arm; how convenient that I would get see a specialist in reactions! He said it would go away and that I should consider that this was a sign that he still had immunity to the antigens in the vaccine and his body recognized that.
We also learned that Lil C does not have any allergies to nuts and that in fact, he should eat them so that he doesn’t develop a sensitivity down the road. This presents some logistical issues since we have a nut-free home, but it is a relief in many ways.
Ultimately, no long-term or even medium-term physical harm came to Lil C, though I do wonder how he will be next year at flu shot time.
But, I am still angry with that nurse. She did so many things wrong beyond her blatant error. She did nothing to ease our anxiety on that visit. In fact, I would say she heightened it with her own anxiety. I had come prepared with many tools but she did not give me the time or the assistance to use them (iPad, sugar in the form of chocolate, cuddles).
She needs some serious re-education in vaccine administration, from safety, through to pain-free administration techniques.
I am planning on sending some of the following resources to my physician’s office with a candid letter:
This experience will have no effect on my belief in vaccines. In fact, it underscores my understanding of the process and the importance of having well-trained medical personnel to make the experience easier for families.
Silver-lining: I know Lil C is immune to diphtheria, tetanus, whooping-cough and polio. Yay!
1) Don’t take both children for shots at the same time; they work each other up.
2) Act as an extra check for the health-care provider; slow them down and check that they are administering the right procedure/medication.