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A Shot In The Dark

By Scott Hamilton, MD
December 23, 2022
Hamilton Blog Headshot Updated 12.21.21

When I need a cavity filled and get that lidocaine shot in the mouth, I break out in a sweat and get faint, nauseated and pale. It's purely in my head, not a medication reaction, ever since anatomy class in medical school. It's something about that drawing of the jaw, flayed open, exposing the inferior alveolar nerve – the dentist's target. I tell him to lay me flat, let me put my legs up to pump blood into my head and don't freak out at my flop sweat. Once the medication's in, I dry out and the rest of the procedure is fine.

Children get lots of shots, and many freak out about them too. After a couple of sharp sticks in the thigh, they learn that the office isn't so fun after all, despite the goofy-acting doctor and the stickers. Of course, though it hurts in the short term, those vaccinations are important. Children dying of tetanus or meningitis hurts a whole lot worse.

The news is now about the “tripledemic.” Influenza virus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and good ol' COVID, are going strong this winter. All are highly contagious and can make kids (and adults) really sick. It's actually a “quadrupledemic” since strep throat, a highly contagious bacteria, is surging in the schools too. Pharmacies are running short of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol), antibiotics for strep, and the anti-flu medicine Tamiflu.

Fortunately, we've got a break in the action. Holiday vacation has begun, taking kids out of schools and reducing their exposure to infectious classmates. Also, while you've got some down time after Christmas, get you and your kids their flu shot and the new bivalent COVID vaccine. They're perfectly safe (I've already gotten mine) and will protect your kids through the long, dark months of January and February. They are the few medicines of which pharmacies aren't running short!

Besides fainting with dental injections, I also hate sticking myself. I have an arthritis requiring regular self-injections, and for my first hits the Rheumatologist had me do it in the office to watch for adverse reactions. Like at the dentist, I warned everyone that I should lie down, but they ignored that advice. Sure enough, after injecting myself, I got woozy, turned pale and broke out in a sweat. They began fretting about allergic reactions, calling the doctor in, as I mumbled, “I told ya so! Just let me lie down!” At home, I lay on the couch, and it goes fine.

Children's vaccine rates declined during the pandemic, and not because kids hate getting shots too. Doctor offices had restricted access, we all stayed home, and parents were also just plain afraid to go where all the sick kids were. Finally, that steady drumbeat to get your latest vaccine caused “COVID fatigue” from masks, incessant hand sanitizing and yet another shot. That fatigue seems to have dampened parents' drive to get kids caught up with regular vaccines.

Even before the pandemic, some children were not getting vaccinated. While still a tiny fraction, it's been growing due to “vaccine hesitancy.” More parents, misinformed about vaccine effects, have delayed their kids' shots, or foregone them altogether. That's bad news, since vaccines have a 60-year record of safety and protect against deadly infections like tetanus, meningitis, measles and more.

Now with the “quadrupledemic” of RSV, COVID, Influenza and Strep, kids (and adults) are getting sick in droves and pharmacies are running out of meds to treat them. Get ahead of the curve. For flu, COVID and the life-threatening stuff too. Use the holiday break to get your children all their shots. Don't spend the long dark winter in a long dark illness.