By Shannon Crum, D.O.
Suppose you’re a child, you’re well-meaning, willing to help save someone else’s life, with your parents’ help, and you think you’ve got it on track. You have carefully planned your action and you’re going to give the vaccine to the other child. However, then you develop another illness.
Not only does the vaccination take place, but it often takes some time and the child must be given further care.
Linda McGhie from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes, “Shouldn’t the parent in this scenario at least be getting some reward for working on another child’s health?”
For twenty-five years, Steven and Nancy Dunham, from New York City, have been giving weekly mass flu shot to their twins and their son. While mother and son have received their yearly and monthly flu shots, their 4-year-old daughter does not have a flu shot.
Last year, they noticed a slight change in her behavior. The differences started when she was young. She stopped sleeping, she wouldn’t hold up her head, she cried a lot. When she became an infant, the reasons for crying were even more obvious.
The Dunhams began thinking about ways they could intervene. They knew that different family members were being vaccinated at a different time. They also knew that a child’s body becomes adapted to flu shots by six months of age.
“A child changes after she has had her first shot, but you can’t change that after the second.”
Unintentionally, the Dunhams had delayed the second one for their daughter. Now, the little girl was struggling with dehydration. According to the CDC, the first shot generally lasts for 24 hours, with the second lasting 14 to 48 hours. So, now she needed to go to the doctor and could no longer wait until the next time she could get the shot.
When it comes to children and flu shots, every child and parent has different considerations. Take for example a 5-year-old with asthma and a 9-year-old with diabetes. Should children in each circumstance have their own shots before getting vaccinated against the flu?
As parents, we cannot take the place of the doctor or vaccine clinic, and we can’t alter the course of another child’s health. We have to let our children, especially the ones who seem a little different than the others, learn from experience.
The Dunhams, like many, want to get their daughter vaccinated so that she can protect herself from the flu. The alternative is getting sick or even a hospital stay. When it comes to dealing with other people, there are no games to play when you have health at stake.
While influenza shots and flu complications are always a priority in caring for children, it’s very important to have a child ask for the vaccines they need. For many children, like the Dunhams’ daughter, it’s the only time they have to ask for something of their parents. Don’t wait until they are ill before you decide to vaccinate them.
Dr. Shannon Crum, D.O., is an emergency room doctor in College Station, Texas.