I did something yesterday that I had never done before. I got a flu shot! I’m not sure why I’ve never had one before. Wait–I take that back. I know exactly why I’ve resisted flu shots in the past. It’s even in the name- flu SHOT! I’m not a fan of shots. My children have always been up to date on all of their immunizations, so I understand the importance of such things. It’s just, well, it’s a SHOT!! A sticking-of-a-sharp-needle-in-my-arm SHOT! That was only happening if I was forced- like the time that a doctor asked when my last tetanus shot was and I couldn’t even come up with a year.
What I’m saying is that I’m a ‘shot chicken.’ For some strange reason, shots from the dentist in my mouth don’t factor into this irrational fear. Any other shots? No way! Not by choice. Until yesterday, that is.
You’d think that I would always choose to get a flu shot. My grandmother lost both of her parents in the same week when she was five-years-old due to influenza back in the early 1900s. While I know that modern medicine has many ways to treat the flu, I also know that it can have severe complications and even result in death. I teach middle school, which is just another way to say Germ Factory. Kids coughing and sneezing on everything, touching everything, coming to school when they should stay home with fevers. I had many reasons that a flu shot should have been a given in my life.
I’ll admit that I was a little bit spooked by the number of stories on the news and serious posts crowding out family photos on Facebook about the dangerous effects of the flu last year. It finally got to me. It was time to reevaluate my shot-phobia. According to npr.org website, over 80,000 people died due to complications from the flu last winter, which was the highest death rate in more than 40 years. While every season is different, I realized that my resistance had to go.
The CDC recommends that young children over 6 months of age, people with chronic illnesses, and older folks should get flu shots yearly. Research helps to decide which virus may be the most common each year. The vaccines cause the body to develop antibodies that fight against the flu. The goal is to keep people healthy and out of hospitals with complications.
When the email came out for our school system employees to sign up for free flu shots, I didn’t hesitate–not too much, anyway. As the date approached, I tried not to think about it. When I knew those nurses were in my building, I watched the clock until my designated time with a mix of dread and anticipation before trudging up those stairs to the conference room, which served as a make-shift clinic for flu shots.
Upon entering, the nurse asked me to sign a form, then it was my turn. This was moving WAY too quickly, but that was probably a good thing. No extra time to chicken out. Other school employees were also in the room for vaccines, so I tried to be cool. The nurse pulled up my sleeve and used an alcohol wipe on my arm- all while I was still standing. WHAT? Should I be upright and on my feet? Don’t people sit down when someone is going to stick a needle in them? Finally, in as calm a voice as I could muster, I asked if she was going to do the shot while I was standing up. She looked at me with a slight smirk and asked if I’d like to sit down. Yes, PLEASE!
I looked out the window in the opposite direction of that needle, chatted nervously about nothing, and- before I even realized it- my shot was done. FINISHED! She stuck on that tiny, round bandage and sent me back to class!
I might have had a little extra swagger in my step, feeling like I had just won a battle. In many ways, I had. That shot wasn’t bad at all. I barely felt a sting. It made me realize that I didn’t need to fear shots. Hopefully, it will also keep me healthy as the flu season comes on strong.
The arm is a bit sore today, but nothing unbearable. I notice it more with certain movements, but haven’t even considered taking any medication for pain. I have no swelling, although that can be a common reaction as well as a slight fever. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from having the vaccine.
Would I do it again next year? You bet! I’m also taking our teenage daughter to get her flu shot tomorrow. We’ve had the conversation with our older kids as well. They, too, are scheduling flu shots. Tis the season, you know! Don’t delay!