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If You Don’t Want a Case of the Flu, You’ve Got to Take a Shot

December 30, 2018

What’s my resolution this year? One of them is to take better care of myself. And that can be a challenge for many of us who are moving with lightning speed from home to work to school to social events and back again. There’s so much I want to experience, and the flu is not one of them.

I’ve been around long enough to know with every bone in my body that Influenza is seriously awful. You know what I mean if you’ve ever had it. And it’s much worse when our children have to suffer through it. In light of this insight, you would think I’d be more vigilant. Not so.

I threw every shred of self-preservation logic out the window this week when I knelt over my feverish grandson to ask how he was feeling and to rub his warmer-than-warm forehead while he languished on the couch barely himself. I walked right in. Made contact. Love makes us do irrational things like lean in close and kiss feverish kids we care about. I washed my hands afterward, and several times after that. I asked my husband to get some nuisance masks. I didn’t wear mine. My fingers are crossed. Foolish, I know.

So what can we do to mitigate the transfer of infection from colds and flu in the first place? It’s actually the simplest solution, but also the hardest to pull off for many of us in our busy lives, especially during the holidays. Still, the number-one thing we can do for ourselves as well as for others is to simply stay home when we are ill. Parents who choose to keep a sick child home are choosing wisely. And this is tough, because children contract several colds a year! Yet, for a variety of reasons it can prove to be difficult for parents to take this huge and preventative step.

As a parent who worked, I understand. But whether it’s out of inconvenience or lack of options or stoic bravado, the cold and flu could care less. It just wants to boogie on down and take its host down with it. And each time a contagious child is out and about in the public, a kind of viral do-si-do only perpetuates swinging its partners ‘round and ’round until everyone is changing partners and doling out icky viruses in the process.

Plan A is to get you and your family inoculated. Hopefully, if you remember to act wisely -- wash your hands, limit contact with people during peak cold and flu season, refrain from touching your face, picking your nose and rubbing your eyes for starters, eat right, drink lots and get plenty of rest -- chances are you will sail through in pretty good shape.

In the event you still come down with something, Plan B is to stay home. A good rule of thumb to enact Plan B is when your household takes on the atmosphere of a temporary infirmary. Put another way, if your child is running a temperature, it’s best to stay put and break out the scrubs.

Don a mask. Stow your car keys. Save yourself! Save the world! (Okay, a bit dramatic, but technically there’s merit to it.) Open that book you’ve been wanting to read or start a series on Netflix, and know it’s going to be days of fevers watched, baths run, cloths cooled, laundry done and done again, and broth on the boil. Maybe a little ice cream for good measure.

We shake our heads (at least I do) and say how did we (I) get here? Meanwhile, the youngest of our clan are giving their parents a run for their money, though not by intentional design, leaving the toilet seats a mess, and forgetting to sing “Happy Birthday” all the way through a soapy, hot hand-washing. Germs bounce around like amoebas in the Petri dish of a home, invisible to the naked eye, leaving every handle, every surface and even the swollen particles in the air a necrotic breeding ground where viruses not only hang and ooze but wait in ambush with bated breath for an errant finger to ultimately find any one of the several available orifices to infiltrate, unsuspecting portals for hosting virulent passengers whose sole mission is to knock us for a loop even as we sneeze and cough into our defenseless elbows.

And knowing the science behind all of this, insanity assumed, you hug your kids even more, resolved to save, as if channeling some mantle donned by Mother Theresa herself, you forget flu shots until the moment after you walk into the lion’s den of infectious shared things.

Crazily, you’re not alone, strangely this is comforting, even though, believe it or not, after all this, only about half of Americans opt to get the flu shot in the first place.

A flu shot, which is no less a menace than a tiny pinch and which no longer holds the mercury it did previous to 1999 and which you needlessly ended up wringing your hands over last year anyway. A flu shot, which is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. A flu shot, which is covered by insurance or subsidies. A flu shot, which is going to keep the worst flu strain from messing up your week. A flu shot, which is cheap, all things considered. A flu shot, which can be easily gotten at local pharmacies and big-box stores on a walk-in basis. No need to scratch a head here.

Right about now, you might be saying, she’s overreacting. If that’s the same thing as erring on the side of prevention, then I take your point. Plus, getting the shot gives an injection to a family’s pocketbook as well, eliminating the need for extra medications, additional doctor’s visits or trips to the ER.

Yes, you can strip the sheets, disinfect your bathrooms and kitchen, wipe down your phone, and use Vick’s menthol vapor rub, just as my mother and her mother before her did. And, of course, you can choose to inoculate yourself and your kids. And after all that, if the flu manages to show up on your doorstep anyway, keep it quarantined. I’ll thank you and so will your family, friends and community.

In fact, I commend you for doing your part to make the world a better place, for rolling up your sleeve, for getting a flu shot. More importantly, caregiver of the sick ward, the noblest deed of all is simply to stay home. Do some reflecting, slow down, lie low.

Look, if you still have questions about why inoculations are good for public health and want to know more about the pros and cons of vaccines for you and your child, don’t take my word for it. Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/thimerosal/index.html .

Some people worry that inoculations can do more harm to the body in the long run. But when I consider that there’s less, if any, mercury in a vaccine than what I consume in fish, and that malaria alone accounts for half of all mosquito-borne infections in the world, I say, “Give me the flu shot, please.”

Because, after all, who wants to stay home and miss out?

Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, writes about writing, learning, and life in the 21st century. Follow Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bonniejtoomey . Learn more at www.parentforward.blogspot.com or visit bonniejtoomey.com .

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