All the allergies in my house have made me jaded and now flu shots scare me.

When my youngest was 4 or 5, he had an allergic reaction to one of his vaccines that resulted in us spending four hours at the emergency room.  We went from the doctors office to the hospital.  It was scary.  That wasn’t the first time one of my kids almost died because of allergies.

My daughter has asthma.  The reason her asthma is *bad* is because she is allergic to the inert ingredients that are put in asthma medications.  There was one asthma med she was just outright allergic to.  The last allergist she seen wanted her to have allergy shots and told her that her allergies would be worse before they got better.  This scared her.  Bad allergies mean asthma attacks.  This means not breathing.  This means throwing up and breaking out in hives.  She said she would take her chances and said no to the allergy shots.

So now it’s flu season and everyone wants you to get your flu shots.  Now, there are those who will actually get the flu from these shots and they are told that if they do get the flu it will be a much more mild case of it.  The flu when you have asthma is a bad thing.  Asthmatics are in that “high risk group” that *must* be vaccinated.  What happens if you get sick and can’t take anything for it and then your asthma gets involved and you can’t keep that under control?  What happens if you are allergic to the flu vaccine?

I realize that my family is an odd case and what I describe is the worst case scenario.  By all rights we could get everyone flu vaccines and nothing happens.  Oddly, as far back as I can remember no one in this house has caught the flu.  We are more likely to have bronchitis fly through the house than the flu or that upper respiratory crap that gets passed around that isn’t the flu and stops short of being bronchitis.  Never the flu though.  Maybe we are lucky.   Maybe we are not so lucky and we end up with worse things than the flu that wreck even more havoc on asthma but at the same time there are drugs that my daughter can take that don’t cause allergic reactions.  Maybe it’s all just a trade off.

I was reminded of all this yesterday while at our local CVS, a place closely resembling hell on a good day.  I won’t get into it all but we are in the process of having all our meds transferred to another CVS that is a bit out of the way to prevent aggravation and save time.  How bad is that?  Back to yesterday’s trip to pick up the last of the meds that we haven’t transferred.

There are easily a dozen people waiting to pick up meds.  Some are in line, some are seated.  The area around the pharmacy is crowded and chaotic and in the middle of all this madness is the pharmacist who is attempting to give a man a flu shot.  Seriously.  There is a chair set up at the end of the isle closest to the pharmacy counter that sits between the shelves and the display that holds the reading glasses.  This is one of the two isles that holds the ever unorganized line for the pharmacy counter.  This is the isle that everyone goes up and down going to and from the pharmacy.  In short, this is the busiest spot in the store and the least safe place to give someone a vaccine.  However, this is where it’s happening.  There is a guy in the chair with his sleeve rolled up and the pharmacist trying to jab him without getting bumped or run into.  No, this particular CVS doesn’t have a Minute Clinic.  All I could picture is one of the many little kids whose parents allow them to run up and down the isles running into this pharmacist while she was in mid jab.

This is such a bad idea on so many levels and I wonder how this guy feels about getting a flu vaccine for all to see in the middle of public.  It’s as if he has been pulled out of the audience onto a stage to be an impromptu assistant to the main act.  Instead of people clapping for him, they are looking at him as if to say “You are brave for doing that here.”

When it was first announced a few years ago that pharmacists were going to start giving flu vaccines in drug stores I thought it was a bad idea.  I still think it’s a bad idea and not just because it’s done in the isle of the busiest part of the store adding to the danger and excitement of possibly not getting the flu.  What happens if you have never had a flu shot and end up having an adverse reaction?  What happens if you have had a flu shot  before and have an adverse reaction for the first time?  Is a pharmacist, in the middle of a busy store with spectators who have inadvertently had the Flu Shot Seed planted in their mind, of dealing with an allergic reaction?  Worse yet, what if it’s full blown anaphylaxis?  What happens then?  What protocols are put into place here?  Without one of those nifty Minute Clinics on hand that employ nurse practitioners there is no one on hand qualified to made a medical decision to dispense medication like an epi-pen.  Does a pharmacy tech call 911 and everyone cross their fingers and hope for the best that the local paramedics have a good response time?  Is this one of those things where the government and CDC have decided poses “little risk” and that the risk outweighs the greater good?  What if the person in question turns out to be someone’s kid who has a problem with the vaccine?

Vaccine reactions are scary.  The first one I seen involved my husband.  He was in the Navy at the time and it was time for his Typhoid booster.  Typhoid is one of the many vaccines that military people get on a regular basis because when you are in the military and traveling the world you are exposed to very many things that would be very bad if you got sick with them.  You think the flu is bad, you should try catching one of the cooties from an area in the world that your immune system isn’t pre-set for.  The first time he was vaccinated for Typhoid it all went well.  The second time he had a very ugly reaction.  The spot where he was jabbed and the surrounding 25% of his arm swelled up, turned purple and green and he got very sick.  We ended up at the emergency room where they said they had never seen anything like that before.  Every morning for the next week he had to check into Navy medical at 7am where they could treat him and keep an eye on his arm to make sure it wasn’t getting worse.  The second time was my son who had an anaphylatic reaction.

I will admit these kinds of reactions aren’t the norm, but they do occasionally happen.  Is it worth the risk of having them done in a crowded public place by someone other than a doctor/nurse practitioner where you are also risking injury because the person giving the shot has nowhere to do it but in a busy store isle and could be bumped worth the convenience of not having to make a doctors appointment or taking your ass down to the health department?