Saturday, August 18, 2012

Varicella Vaccine + Monkey = Mild Chicken Pox


I decided that I have been dealing with Monkey's reaction to the varicella vaccine for over a week and it is time to do something proactive on the blog about it. Because frankly, I process my crap better when I write and I cannot actually do much with Monkey's reaction right now except let it run it's course. So because I feel somewhat helpless, I figure I can use this post to explain what happened, what I have done about it, etc. And at least THAT will feel productive.

Now, before anyone gets super worried, Monkey is fine overall. So I'm sure some may think I'm overreacting. But any type of reaction to any substance or medication should be treated seriously. For example, non-drowsy Sudafed does not cause a severe reaction for me personally, but it makes me SUPER sleepy for some reason. Therefore, I do not take non-drowsy Sudafed unless I am going to be home and not driving, working, etc. So, even a mild reaction to a substance or medication should be addressed appropriately.

Next issue to address in this post: Disclaimers regarding Pro-Vax and Anti-Vax. I feel it is important to give a brief explanation of my current stance on vaccinations before going over Monkey's reaction and resources for adverse vaccine reactions.

I am sure that some who read this post will immediately think that I should not be vaccinating at all for whatever reasons they have decided to not vaccinate. And, given the limited research into the topic I have done myself, I would say that there are definitely reasons to be concerned about many of the vaccinations. I am also sure that some who read this post will immediately think I am a moron for thinking that my baby would be better off contracting a major virus instead of having a simple shot to protect him because the shots are "safe."

I understand that the vaccinations are "safe" according to the CDC and FDA, although there is a long list of side effects for each, all of which include death it seems. And as much as I would like to trust the medical system when they state that we need all of these vaccinations to be safe and healthy, I look back to the past and realize that the medical community used to believe smoking and drinking during pregnancy were just fine. How many commercials have you seen lately stating that some birth control, arthritis, anti-depressant, or other medication has caused serious injury and you may be entitled to monetary damages? All of these medications are also "safe" and FDA approved.

Now, I fully realize that many medications and vaccinations DO good things and are INTENDED to do good things. But what I also realize is that what we know now to be true may be TOTALLY different in 10 or 20 years. What we believe to protect us from disease or treat a condition now may be shown to have severe repercussions on our health in the future, which we cannot determine know and will only be known with time. I'm sure most of us are aware of the Thalidomide babies. But have you ever heard of Diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was used for over 30 years to prevent miscarriages and pregnancy complications, then was recalled because the daughters born from the women taken the drug had a high rate of a rare tumor? The list of recalled medications is endless for a variety of reasons, but there are countless examples of medications being recalled because discoveries are made after they are on the market for years or decades that show that they are unsafe and cause other conditions. So, I understand that medications and vaccinations currently approved by the FDA are "safe" now, but what about in 10 years? 20 years? Will my grandchildren read about some medications routinely taken by my loved ones and know that those medications caused a host of side effects and conditions that we currently cannot link to them...yet?

And in some cases, what we know now isn't even widely known because the medical community isn't sharing all of the applicable information to allow patients to have informed consent, usually based on monetary reasons. Go read this post HERE regarding the birth control industry, where I recently learned that the birth control pill is classified as a CLASS ONE CARCINOGEN, the same as asbestos and cigarettes. Yep, that's right, the birth control pills that millions of women take each year is raising her risk of cancer in the same category as smoking and asbestos exposure. REALLY? My OB never let me know this when we discussed birth control pills in the past. But it's ok, it's "safe." Right?!

So, given that every time I dig deeper into various medications and medical treatments I find things like this, you can see hopefully see why I am uneasy giving my child some of the vaccinations.

But, on the other hand, I live in one of the only 2 states that currently do not allow any vaccine exemptions other than medical exemptions in order to be enrolled in public schools.

So, here I am, straddling the middle ground between pro-vax and anti-vax. I do not believe that all the required vaccines for my state should be required. I am concerned about the ingredients and additives in the vaccinations, especially what the medical community will find out in the coming decades about things that are "safe" now but will later be found to be dangerous. But my state only allows medical exemption for enrollment into public school and we will not be homeschooling. I will not be moving from my current locations because our careers and family are based here, so Monkey will need all the required vaccinations to go to school and I currently have little "choice" in the matter based on the state requirements.

I could wait until right before school starts in the hopes that vaccination requirements and exemptions will change in the next few years, but that could end up meaning that Monkey would get all the same shots in a much shorter time span. And I definitely do want some of the vaccinations, I just cannot opt-out of the ones I believe are most unnecessary or that I believe may cause more harm than good. So, I am making the best of the situation and spreading the vaccinations out. Instead of giving 3 or 4 at a time like the "standard" schedule that Sassy and Diva endured, we have worked with our pediatrician and developed a delayed schedule. This means that Monkey gets no more than 2 shots per appointment typically and the vaccines I am concerned about are never given with something else that is "new". Monkey will still have all the necessary shots to start school on time, but the vaccinations are spread out to help reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions.

Which brings me to the MAIN point of this post now that I'm done blabbing about vaccinations. 

Monkey is my first child to have a vaccine reaction. Well, at least one that is "abnormal." With Sassy and Diva, I expected the injection site to be read, a possible low fever, and for the child to be cranky, irritable, etc. That is what I consider a "normal" reaction. Anything else: rash, vomiting, hearing loss, seizures, etc. THESE are the reactions I would be very concerned about. The girls each had mild reactions as listed above, but no other reaction that warranted a call to my ped or reporting to health officials.

I was not really "concerned" about the chicken pox vaccine, but if I could opt out of it I would have. I believe that this is one of those viruses that is better to develop natural immunity against rather than have the vaccine. I would hate to watch my child go through a bout with chicken pox. I remember when I had the chicken pox as a child. Do you know what I remember? I was itchy and miserable, but I was also happy with lots of popsicles, baths, and TV. And given that there are studies out there linking the current shingles epidemic (and need for a shingles vaccine) to the fact that adults are no longer boosting their immunity to the Zoster virus by being exposed to children with chicken pox, I would gladly see my child itchy and miserable with the chicken pox than greatly increase his risk for shingles for decades later in life.

But alas, I have no free choice regarding this, therefore my ped and I decided to do the first dose of the Varicella vaccine at Monkey's 18 month appointment and his second dose of Hep A. I researched possible side effects beforehand, made sure Monkey was healthy at his appointment prior to receiving the shots, etc.

His appointment was 8/7 (Tuesday) and he seemed fine after his appointment. Fast forward to 8/9 (Thursday). I noticed a small spot on his lower back when getting him dressed that I just assumed was a bug bite. When I picked him up from my sitter that evening, I noticed another spot on his ankle, which I assumed was another bug bite from playing outside during the day. But on Friday evening, he had another spot on his other ankle and had not been outside, so I could not understand how he had another bite. That evening, another spot appeared on his arm. At this point, I started searching for possible hidden spiders in his room and play areas, but I found none.

It was not until 8/11 (Saturday) that I realized the spots were still coming after I had eliminated all the "bug bite" possibilities I could think of. Plus some of the spots had scabbed over in a way that immediately made me think of chicken pox spots. Being that it was Saturday and my pediatrician was not open, I decided to consult Dr. Google before deciding if I needed to call the ped. Dr. Google confirmed what I thought was happening: Monkey had chicken pox lesions.

The lesions do not appear to be itchy or bother Monkey at all though, so I decided to let it go until Monday before calling his ped. I notified his ped of his reaction and discussed it with her on the phone. She confirmed what I basically already knew: it has to run it's course, can take up to 28 days, and there is a small chance of spreading it to others, especially those that are pregnant or have compromised immune systems (such as someone on chemotherapy).

Do you want to know the reaction symptoms that are most bothersome to me? Mood, appetite, and sleep changes. Monkey has went from happy-go-lucky-calm kid to a mash-up of anger-management-Emo-heartbroken-manic-giggly kid. All in the span of about 30 seconds sometimes. He has never really been a moody kid before, so these angry outbursts and melancholy heartbreak have thrown me for a loop. His appetite is also out of whack. Some days he wants to eat everything in sight. Other days he wants to nurse as much as possible instead of eating a good meal. And some days he wants no food and also doesn't want to nurse. His sleep has also been all over the place between sleeping 12+ hours  plus taking a 2 hour nap to sleeping 5 hour total in a 24 hr period.

Of course, I understand a lot of these "symptoms" can be explained by developmental phases, becoming a toddler, growth spurts, teething, etc. But, we do not seem to have any new teeth coming at the moment and it is too coincidental that all of these changes happened after the chicken pox lesions appeared. So, unless these symptoms continue past the duration of the lesions, I'm going to assume they are reactions to the vaccines.

I tried to get some pictures of some of the chicken pox lesions, but Monkey has been in no mood for pictures lately. The closest I came to taking some pics were when I strapped him into his carseat to leave one morning and snapped a few quick pics before he started throwing a Class 5 tantrum. So, here's the only thing I've got:

3 Chicken pox lesions on his cheek

1 chicken pox lesion on his left leg above his ankle

1 chicken pox lesion on the other side of his left ankle

1 chicken pox lesion on the back of his right leg
Again, I know these are crappy quality. But that is what happens when you strap a toddler in a car seat, then twist and contort his body to snap pictures with a camera before he reaches T-Total Meltdown Mode.

And the spots just keep coming. I am not keeping track of each spot, but I know that we are likely over 30 spots at this point. Most of them appear after bedtime and are already scabbed over the next morning. I know this because I will find new small scabs in places that did not have a spot the night before. So, at least the lesions are not itchy and appear to be popping up, scabbing over, and disappearing fairly quickly. If I could just get rid of the other symptoms, this wouldn't be bad at all lol.

For now, our social calendar has cleared a bit. I rarely go to things without Monkey, but I do not want to go somewhere and expose someone with a compromised immune system to the virus. So the kids and I are not going to a annual picnic this weekend that is related to our town's homecoming celebrations, although Hubby is still going. I have put off grocery shopping for a week because I have not been able to go without Monkey so far. We have had to basically put my aunt on the restricted list because she has had shingles in the past 6 months and I do not want Monkey's reaction to trigger another shingles outbreak for her. And this could go on for WEEKS. ~sigh~

Well, to close out the post, I want to bring your attention to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Basically, when a person experiences and adverse reaction to a vaccine, they should report the reaction to their health care provider. Then their health care provider is required to report the reaction. But, VAERS also allows the patient or parent to file a report. I think this is a GREAT tool. The provider's report will include more clinical details, but the patient/parent's report should contain more details concerning the exact reaction. It is a 5 step process to file a report, it is confidential, and it is quick and easy. So what follows is a screen shot of my report regarding Monkey's adverse reaction to Varicella. It had to do it in 2 shots because it was too long to catch on one screen without scrolling, so the second picture will have some overlap with the first picture.

Of course, I have edited the pics to remove all of our personal information, but you can see exactly what is needed to file a report. I also added a note on the second pic to clarify that "doses" refer to how many prior doses were given before the reaction to this dose. I was very surprised by how easy it was to do. VAERS is co-managed by the CDC and FDA, so both organizations monitor and review the reports, then conduct further research based on the reports. I highly encourage anyone that personally experiences an adverse reaction or whose child experiences an adverse reaction to file a report with VAERS.

For now, we are just muddling through, letting the mild chicken pox reaction run through the motions. We will discuss the entire reaction in depth at our next appointment with our ped and determine a course of action to determine if our delayed vaccination schedule needs to be modified based on this reaction.

Anyone that is still with me: Congrats, you deserve a cookie. I knew going into it that this would be a LONG post, but I needed to do something to process my thoughts on the entire situation and wanted to provide some information along the way. So thanks for letting me do that.

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