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The Swine Flu Vaccine and Your Family

Posted Aug 24 2009 11:52am

Like most families, you’re probably being bombarded by the media regarding swine flu: precautions, symptoms, and the availability of the shot.

First, you need to know this: most widely available doses of the swine flu vaccine will contain thimerosal, a mercury-laden preservative that has been removed from most vaccines on the Recommended Immunization Schedule over fears of neurological effects.

Also, there are ways you can protect even the littlest members of your family, without giving them a vaccine.

What? It’s either stock up on the Tamiflu or line up for the vaccine? Not so fast, there…

Let’s start with some of the symptoms. They’ll sound familiar, as some mimic the seasonal flu or colds. The CDC says that indications include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, and possibly diarrhea and vomiting.

So how to prevent? Simply get a shot? If that is your choice for your family, know the difference.

The standard swine flu vaccine currently being administered, the one that contains thimerosal, is called Panderix. The mercury-free version is called Celvapan.

(Drug manufacturers are allowed to call a vaccine “mercury-free” if it has only trace amounts of thimerosal.)

Although the CDC recommends that most seemingly healthy people receive the vaccine, there are other ways to protects your babies. Check out what the CDC said in May:

Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection.

Yep. The Centers for Disease Control suggests breastmilk over formula to help protect your little ones against swine flu. No, breastmilk is no cure. But it may help boost baby’s immune system and make any illness a mild one.

There are other precautions we can take, too. Common sense ones. Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday To You.” Cover your mouth, throw away used tissues, don’t share food and drink containers.(Basically? Use good manners. Let’s make these rules for non-pandemic living too, shall we?)

And if you or your child(ren) should contract the swine flu… pick up some Tamiflu? Actually, no. The World Health Organization said that most people recover from H1N1 without the aid of the drug. They fear that overuse of the antivirals could lead to a stronger swine flu virus.

Indeed, Denmark first found a case where swine flu was Tamiflu-resistant. Cases have since been found in China, Canada, and the U.S. The WHO, therefore, recommends that these treatments only be used in the more serious swine flu cases, not the mild ones.

Not only that, Tamiflu may be dangerous to children. In one study, kids had exacerbated symptoms after using the remedy, such as vomiting and diahrrea. Another study showed that the drug caused nausea and nightmares in some kids. Simply put, the harm may outweigh the benefits.

The swine flu vaccine may be effective and certainly necessary for select groups in the population. But make sure you know the facts before your family lines up to try out this newly-developed vaccine.

Image: alvi2047 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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