Vaccinations – a misadventure and some advice

Okay, so I went to my doctor’s office because I needed a tetanus shot. Unfortunately the only thing on hand was the new tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccine.

To be fair the physician, a wonderful doctor who deserves NO blame for what follows, did ask me if I had ever had any problems with this vaccine.

I stated that I did not know but that I did not think so.

My bad.

I got the shot and left the office. I was unlucky in that my appointment was the last of the day. The nurse was locking up as I left.

About four minutes later I was suffering from severe anaphylactic shock.

Here I got lucky. My fiancee who was with me took my seriously when I said I was in deep shit and he went around the building and pounded on doors until he got the attention of the nurse inside.

And so fortunately I found myself back in the examination room I had just left getting poked with all kinds of needles.

I’m actually a bit hazy on the details but I believe they included a benedryl shot and a corticosteroid shot. I don’t think the epipen they had actually got used. I then spent thirty minutes on my back talking to the doctor and nurse as they monitored me until I was out of danger.

They saved my life.

The lesson here? Ignorance is not bliss and if you are doing traveling that involves vaccinations it would be a very good idea to know what your risks are and what allergies you may have.

That said, how can you protect yourself?

Get your vaccinations at a doctor’s office rather than a clinic. Try for an early appointment so you don’t have to worry about locked doors if something does go wrong.

Ask questions about any possible side effects and the incidences of an allergic reaction.

Remain in the clinic for fifteen minutes after the vaccinations – this is legally required in most states but a lot of doctors will let it slide. It is your responsibility to ask to wait and to explain why if challenged.

Keep a list of all vaccinations you have had and take it with you to the doctor’s. And if you are taking other drugs you might want to ask about interactions.

Since more and more laws about vaccination are coming into effect you are going to want to take more precautions than usual.

It is also a good idea to visit the CDC Yellow Book website to find out what diseases are in the area you are going to and what vaccinations are required. (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/yellowbook/home-2010.aspx )

You might also try their travel health page at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ .

And if you answer the question “Are you allergic to [drug]?” with “I don’t know?” then make sure your doctor will look out for you.

If it turns out you are allergic to something see that a big notation makes it into your medical records and also make a note of it yourself somewhere.

Trust me, with anaphylactic shock, once is more than enough.