Tuesday, 18 January 2011

To Jab Or Not To Jab...

... that is the question...

So, thanks to my dicky ticker, I am in the 'at-risk' group when it comes to influenza, and therefore the recommendation has always been that I should get a flu jab every year. This I have dutifully done, and I have never had any problems; I know they say that you can develop a few mild symptoms, but I've never even had so much as a sniffle as a result of it.

2009, of course, saw the outbreak of swine flu and the subsequent vaccination. I had the seasonal jab first, and then a few weeks later (January 2010, in fact) I had the H1N1 jab. A few days after I'd had the swine flu injection, I was sitting at my desk at work when I started to itch. I think it started on my back, or the nape of my neck, somewhere a bit awkward that I couldn't see. But boy, was I itching! After a while I went to look in the mirror - by this time I could see a rash was spreading kind of from the back of my neck, round to the front. It was also on my arms. Before long I could actually feel the warmth of it moving up my neck and onto my face, and when my eyelid started to feel like it was swelling up, I decided it might be a good idea to book an urgent appointment with my GP! I saw her that afternoon, and after we'd ruled out all the usual suspects - no I hadn't changed my soap powder, bubble bath, perfume etc, etc - I mentioned that I'd had the swine flu jab a few days earlier, and she said "ah, it's probably that, then". She prescribed anti-histamines and the rash (which had spread almost over my whole body, although thankfully the eye swelling hadn't got any worse) eventually disappeared over the next few days.

Around October 2010 the call went up again for everyone to have their flu jabs. I meant to have it, but time just got away from me, and I didn't get around to it till the end of December. I can actually get it for free where I work, but after explaining to the nurse about my allergic reaction, she refused to give me the jab, as it was a combined seasonal/swine flu vaccination, and she didn't want to take the risk. She recommended that I check with my GP to see if they were offering separate ones. They weren't. I was told to ring and speak to one of the nurses; she was busy and actually called back while I was out, so CJ spoke to her and explained the situation. She seemed to think it would be ok, so I got booked in for an appointment this afternoon.

So, there I am in the nurse's room, about to have the jab. We go over the allergic reaction once more, and I can see the doubt forming in her mind. "How do you feel about having it?" she asks me.
"If you're happy to give me it, I'm happy to have it," I reply, "getting a rash is better than getting flu".
"I'll go speak to the doctor, just for my own peace of mind..." and off she goes. Five minutes later, she comes back with the doctor who I saw last year. She tells me that because I had a reaction last time, there's a possibility that I might have another one, and it may be more severe. She asks me if I work in an environment where I might be at increased risk of catching flu (well, yes and no) and then tells me that the flu outbreaks are tailing off now, that we're kind of coming to the end of it. I kind of got the feeling that she was trying to talk me out of having the flu jab!! She also asked me what I wanted to do, and again I said that I'd feel happier having it, because I really don't want to risk getting flu, especially after all the horror stories that keep popping up on the news. In that case, she said I could have it but they'd want to observe me for about 40 minutes afterwards, so instead of getting it this afternoon, I now have to go back one morning later this week. I'll be taking an anti-histamine that morning, as a precaution. I guess I ought to take a book to read too, while I wait (I'm not brave enough to crochet in public yet!)

What a palaver!! I do understand that she was just trying to make me think of the risks versus the benefits, but I'm still a little shocked that she was almost trying to talk me out of having it. Especially when you think of how much pressure they put on people - particularly 'at-risk' groups - to have it. It almost makes me wish I hadn't said anything in the first place, but when it comes to health, I've always been an 'honesty-is-the-best-policy' kind of person - tell 'em everything, no secrets!

Anyway, fingers crossed I get jabbed later this week, and I don't suffer any side-effects - I don't want to be all itchy and scratchy for my birthday next week!

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