IBD and Flu Shots: How My Patient Experience Comforted My Kids

There are moments as an IBD mom when you realize that all you do day in and day out to manage your disease carries over into how your children face adversity and empathize with others. As a mom with Crohn’s disease who has three little ones, it’s a lot to juggle.

Used to seeing shots because of my injections

I’ve been giving myself a self-injection for over 13 years, long before I became a mom four years ago. Since then, my children have watched me do my shot with wonder and curiosity. I’ve always made a point of explaining to them that the medicine in my shot keeps me healthy, safe, and strong. When they watch me go through the process, I look at them in the eyes with a big smile on my face, so they see that I’m not hurting and that I’m not in pain.

Fast forward a few years and when I took my 4-year-old and 2-year-old to get their annual flu shots. I was amazed with how they tolerated the jab and so was the nurse! I explained to her how they’re used to seeing me doing shots for my IBD treatment and she agreed that’s helped them immensely.

She told me in all her years she had never seen little ones so calm and collected and that most 11-year-olds have more of a reaction than they did. My 2-year-old daughter even thanked the nurse after the shot and told her she was the “best docta eva.”

A reprieve from chronic illness mom guilt

As a chronic illness mama this warmed my heart and gave me a reprieve from the guilt I often feel for my invisible disease. Flu shots are a priority in our family, to not only keep us healthy, but to protect those around us. A basic and necessary concept these days.

We have a 3-month-old who is temporarily immunocompromised from being exposed to my biologic while in utero. Since he’s unable to receive a flu shot himself, it’s even more important for our family this year to get the vaccine. I’m hopeful that my baby will receive antibodies from the flu shot that I received through my breastmilk.

As a family we make this a priority every year in early October, not just because of our current circumstances. It’s part of being proactive and protective and teaching that to little ones from an early age.

Flu shots linked to less severe COVID-19 symptoms

Being an immunocompromised IBD mom through the pandemic with children who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine has made everything more complicated for our family. It’s been tough to make judgment calls about the risk versus benefit of our decisions.

I was happy to see that a recent study published in the journal Plos One found that people who received a flu shot during the previous six months were less likely to experience severe complications from the coronavirus. The study involved nearly 75,000 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in not only the United States, but also the UK, Italy, Germany, Israel, and Singapore. One of the key findings was that people who didn’t get flu shots were up to 20% more likely to get admitted into the ICU than those were had been vaccinated for the flu.1

Our little ones are watching

At the end of the day, we’re all doing our best to navigate this challenging time and doing what we’re most comfortable with. For me, nothing comes before the health and wellbeing of my children. When the going gets tough and you worry about how your disease is translating into family time, know that your little ones are watching more than you think and see the warrior that you are.

IBD is a lot more visible than we think to those around us. Getting a flu shot and protecting you and yours is a great defense in facing the unpredictability and unknown of these times. Little did I know all those injections I gave myself would help my kids cope with they got one of their own.

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