Back to School + Play Dates and Flu Season

We are over half way through summer and it seems as though it all flew by at breakneck speed. Walking into a store you can’t help but notice that fall decorations are up on the shelves already and back to school supplies are already stocked. I love the fall season and everything that comes with it, however, with the buzz of everything back to school I can’t help but feel that sense of dread knowing that the congregation of children and people, being indoors, and the cooler weather will bring with it the awful and most unwelcomed… influenza. And with the flu comes other various illnesses that are especially harmful and even life-threatening to young children, babies, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly.

The Awful Flu, What’s a Parent To Do?
Influenza ran rampant and was awful last year…I’m praying it’s not the case this year. A few schools near our area shut down for a brief time because it was so bad. There was a period of two or three months where I simply felt the need to hibernate and limit playdates or indoor gatherings in order to keep our family healthy. My efforts weren’t perfect – we didn’t get as sick as most, but we definitely had back to back illnesses in our home from February – April. None of us got influenza, thankfully, and we had gotten our flu shots and made sure we were up to date on all other vaccinations. I’m 100% positive this kept us from getting the worst of it. Parenting is hard – it’s especially hard when it comes to making important decisions about the health of our children. It’s definitely not something to take lightly and I applaud the parents who do their research and check with their healthcare providers and pediatrician. Since Rowan’s been born we’ve followed the CDC’s recommended schedule based on our pediatrician’s guidelines.

Education & Research
I’ve blogged in the past about the decisions our family has made to vaccinate. You can read more about it here and here. I’ve also shared that I believe all parents, whether their game plan for health looks like ours or a little different, make decisions that they feel are best for their children and family. I know that this topic can be a passionate issue for many – even amongst some of my dearest friends. Our personal decisions aren’t a judgment toward what any other family decides to do. We simply choose this path because it’s what we feel is best for us. And I encourage you to do the same. Talk to your healthcare provider, read the facts, and make an educated decision on how you want to approach health this fall and winter. What is most important to me is that parents and guardians get the proper information and seek out valid research before making this extremely important decision.

History & Effectiveness
I always make it a point to remember that gathering with friends and family means a lot of sharing of toys, snacks, and…germs. There is definitely a fine line between keeping your child wrapped in bubble wrap and carefully exposing them so that they build their immunity. However, there are some viruses and diseases that are not to be messed with, thus medical experts and scientists have created vaccines to help shield our families from these harmful bugs. Before we chose to vaccinate Rowan I was concerned and unsure. I had heard so many conflicting arguments about the safety of vaccinations. Did the pros outweigh the cons? What was the truth? How could I be sure? I’m sure many of you have had those same questions run through your mind.

Vaccines have dramatically changed medicine over the last century. Before vaccines, families in the United States could expect that every year:

  • Polio would paralyze 10,000 children.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) would kill 8,000 infants.
  • Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing about 500.
  • Rubella (German measles) would cause birth defects and intellectual disabilities in as many as 20,000 newborns.
  • Diphtheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children.
  • A bacterium called Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage.

The diseases we vaccinate against have declined, but they haven’t all disappeared. Other countries do not have the same access to vaccines as the United States – and sadly, it shows in their mortality rate. As we have seen in the United States and in other countries, if we stop vaccinating, vaccine-preventable diseases can and will return. This is why we still vaccinate against diseases we no longer see in the USA. If the majority of our country stopped vaccinating, one infected traveler from another country where a disease hasn’t been eliminated could potentially spark an outbreak. History shows that this is exactly what happened back during the surge of immigration to the United States. (iVaccinate, 2017)

Back to School in Michigan – State Vaccine Laws
I often hear parents discussing amongst one another what the state laws are in Michigan around vaccinations for school-aged children and daycare settings. Below are a few resources that I think those of you who are also asking those same questions might find useful.

In Michigan, parents with school-age children have the option to sign a vaccination waiver for philosophical or religious reasons. As of 2015, parents who want a waiver for their child must attend an information session at their local health department.

Learn more about required vaccines for child care and preschool.

Learn more about required vaccines for school entry in Michigan.

My take is that it’s never too late to vaccinate! The iVaccinate website holds a wealth of credible knowledge and resources that you should definitely browse as you consider the best route for your family. Your final decision may not end up looking exactly how ours did, but my hope would be that if anything, you glance through tried and true research and weigh the pros and cons thoroughly. At the end of the day, I trust that each family, and every parent or guardian, is doing their very best to make a health decision they feel is appropriate and right for their child.

This blog post was sponsored by iVaccinate, thank you for supporting the brands and organizations I work with. All thoughts and opinions are 100% and my own.

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