February 16th, 2010
09:05 AM ET
By Ashley WennersHerron
I am an allergy sufferer — from seasonal sniffles to mushrooms and penicillin. Although I’ve been careful and lucky enough to have to use an adrenaline auto-injector only once, I’m wary of trying new things, whether it’s food or a new vaccine, out of fear of discovering yet another allergy. Despite my hesitation, I felt the protection granted by receiving the H1N1 vaccine outweighed the risk of a possible allergic reaction.
Early this month, I made an appointment with my school’s health center to receive the nasal spray vaccine. When I went in, I bravely tilted my head back, pinched one nostril and then the other for my two shots of vaccine nasal spray. The nurse told me not to blow my nose for 10 minutes and I was free to go.
Nearly 20 minutes later, I felt a familiar tingle in my mouth, similar to the one I get if I eat shellfish. Twenty minutes after that, with my tongue was twice as large as normal, I sounded like Daffy Duck. I had a fever of 102 degrees and a migraine. Yep, I added another allergy to my list — the H1N1 vaccine.
I called a local hospital to see whether I should go to the emergency room. They recommended that I take a Benadryl and come in if I developed respiratory problems. I took the antihistamine tablet and promptly slept away my symptoms. Three hours later, I was a bit groggy, but asymptomatic.
According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, 6,528 individuals have reported an adverse reaction after receiving the H1N1 vaccine through injection. There have been 1,962 reactions reported for the live nasal spray vaccine. Both coincidental reactions and those caused directly by the vaccine are reported to the VAERS.
The CDC says that the nasal spray may cause a runny nose, but only in certain individuals is there a stronger reaction. If there is a severe reaction, such as trouble breathing, then the person should be brought to a doctor immediately. I was lucky to have only mild symptoms that did not require medical attention.
Despite my discomfort, I’m glad I received my vaccination. I live in a college dorm, surrounded by the 18- to 24-year-old age group most likely to be affected by this strain of influenza. I use public transportation, I shop in crowded grocery stores and I am constantly interacting with other people. The vaccine not only protects me, but it also aids in preventing transmission of the disease.
For me, a young and healthy individual, the flu would probably be mild, but I would still host the virus. This means I could pass it along to my classmates, my co-workers and to strangers on the subway. Someone with a compromised immune system, or someone with a chronic health problem could have much more severe consequences, such as developing pneumonia or respiratory problems.
I’m doing what I can to prevent people from getting sick; are you?
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