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Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Show and Tell – Something Fun and Something Serious

Today I have two things to share with you. First, I wrote a piece for Babble this week on feeding picky eaters, based on great input from a lot of friends and bloggers. It was actually really helpful for me personally to write this as I tackle feeding Owen (who is quite picky these days!). Click here to read the article – there is some great insight!

owen my picky eater! from @janemaynard

I also have something a little more serious to share for Show and Tell. See that cute guy there making a perfect picky-eater face? Well, our little Owen has pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. The doctor confirmed Owen’s test results last night and now our entire family is on antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

I am not here for a debate, I simply want to share our experience. We vaccinate our children and are firmly pro-vaccine, and yet, here we are, with a very preventable, potentially-deadly disease in our home. I am aware that the anti-vax contingency has been growing, but honestly, I thought that there were only a few small pockets where people had stopped vaccinating. Well, as I learned this week, this is not the case. There are many communities where schools no longer have herd immunity because the number of vaccinated children is too low. When that happens, these previously-eliminated diseases start popping up. California has been tracking district-specific immunization numbers since 2000, so it is a good case study of the phenomenon. Click here to see some great maps and get more info about California’s numbers. I learned that in our school district there are only 4 out of 15 elementary schools with immunization rates above 93% (the magic number for herd immunity) and our school is only at 84%. The neighboring district has 0 out of 5 schools above 93%. We live right in the middle of one of those red dots you see on all the maps. (Note: California is 39th in the country, so there are 11 states with worse numbers.)

the growth of anti-vax sentiment in CAPhoto source: Washington Post

In the last few weeks our community (North County Coastal San Diego) has had confirmed cases of both measles and whooping cough. My son Owen is 3 years old and has 3 out of 4 of his shots for pertussis (he needs to be 4 years old to get the 4th shot), leaving him about 15% likely to contract the disease if exposed. Sadly he was and he did get pertussis. Thankfully he is doing well and I can’t imagine how terrible the cough would have been if he wasn’t immunized (having the vaccination makes symptoms less severe). We are feeling lucky despite the fact he has pertussis, but also feeling that it is just so unnecessary that we’re dealing with this. No one should be dealing with these diseases.

If you live in California, there is a petition for the state government to make vaccinations mandatory for all K-12 students in the public school system. Click here to sign. This month the federal government approved a pledge of $1B for vaccines to Gavi to save millions of children’s lives all over the world. It blows my mind that there are developing countries with higher vaccination rates than my kids’ school. We need to remedy that so all of us everywhere will be protected from these diseases.

I do believe some of the unvaccinated children in the stats are, in reality, partially vaccinated. I’m really hoping that the resurgence of some of these diseases will be the kick in the pants we need to get our vaccination rates back up.

And, as I said, Owen is doing well. The first two days of the cough were the worst. We actually went to the doctor at that point but were told it was a cold – we had no reason to think it was pertussis. Ten days later he was still having coughing fits and we also learned that there were, in fact, cases of whooping cough in town, so we went back to the doctor. Owen is being treated and is in good spirits.

Thanks for letting me ramble. Obviously this is all I can think about right now. Have a good weekend!


  1. 1
    Mags P

    Hello – My son has been very ill for nearly 10 weeks with a severe cough. The doctor hasn’t given in to my repeated requests to test him for pertussis because he has received the first 3 doses of the pertussis vaccine, and he says it would be very rare/ too rare to test. My question is after reading your article: what did they do to confirm pertussis (what test, etc.)? I know in my heart that’s what my son has.

    • that sounds strange! the test was not a big deal. they swab both nostrils. it was definitely uncomfortable for owen and he got very upset, but it’s really not a big deal. also, even if you are fully vaccinated you can still get pertussis (two doctors I talked to this week both confirmed that fact, and our whole family is full vaccinated but the course of action is to treat everyone anyway) so I don’t know why he is refusing the test. I would definitely insist – might as well rule it out! are there any cases where you live? the test really is simple, no side effects. good luck….sending you good vibes!!!!

    • and please come back and let us know what happens…I’ll be thinking about you!

    • Angela

      Not sure why they haven’t tested, but it may have to do with where you live. If you live in a low-risk population and there have been no recent reported cases then Dr’s are less likely to consider it. Or maybe there’s other reasons that he’s thinking it would be something else. Have they done any blood work? If so, they almost certainly ran a CBC with diff. If they did and saw lymphocytes were only slightly elevated then it’s likely not pertussis.

      However, regardless of the reason, 10 weeks is far too long for a child to be ill without getting to the bottom of it. I would strongly recommend trying to get him to a pediatric respiratory specialist. Usually if you call your insurance company they can give you a referral. They can test for pertussis, but he probably should have some pulmonary function tests run as well, if he hasn’t already. This is also really common in children with asthma, so that would need to be ruled out. Good luck! I hope you can get him feeling better!

      BTW, I am an RN, not a Dr. This is just what I would do if it were my child.

    • Mags P

      Thank you ladies. Yes, it’s been very frustrating. We are in a low risk population; however, I have told them several times that my grandfather was out of the country, contracted it, saw another family member who also contracted it, and then a few days later my son began to get sick (at first common cold symptoms then the terrible cough, struggling to breathe, throwing up after coughing multiple times a day).

      So while our community has not seen an outbreak, my immediate family has. I’ve tried to trust that our doctor that he knows best, but at this point I’m frustrated. My son does seem to be getting a little better. But I am seeking a second opinion this upcoming week regardless, and will ask for a referral to specialist.

      By the way, the reason I’ve been refused the test is because the vaccine is “98%” effective, even if he was exposed. My son also flirts with the bottom of the growth charts (he was IUGR and SGA after I had preeclampsia), and that puts him with a different set of risk factors. He is 1 year old.

      We brought him back in this past Saturday and insisted that they do something (anything as he was falling off the charts in weight). They gave him a breathing treatment (first treatment) and insisted that if it were pertussis it would be gone after 2 weeks which we are way past (I now know is not true when left untreated).

      The cough has a classic whoop. I’ve asked if it could be croup, asthma, whooping cough, chest infection, etc. Everytine I’ve been told… Wait it out. Thanks for the advice! I really only got on this site because someone posted freezer meals to Pinterest! And then I saw this and said…wait a second. 😉

    • Mags P

      Last thing: no blood work or test of any kind, which is really what I’ve been asking for. We have been to the doctor 6 times for this one issue, but it is a partnership of docs so you don’t necessarily see the same one each time and they rely on the notes of the previous doc to help make a diagnosis.

      Jane feel free to delete this! I’m better now that I’ve put it out there!

    • Angela

      I replied earlier, but it doesn’t seem to have posted. Anyway, I’m an RN and just had a few thoughts. I really can’t say why your DR hasn’t tested your son for pertussis. If you live in a low risk community and there haven’t been any recent reported outbreaks that could be one reason. Another is that if they’ve done blood work they may have found that it’s more suggestive of a viral infection than pertussis (generally in pertussis Lymphocytes are extremely elevated). Regardless, there is definitely SOMETHING going on beyond a normal cold/virus. I would strongly urge you to take your son to a pediatric respiratory specialist. If you call your insurance they can provide you with in-network referrals and I would do with whoever can get him seen soonest. They will likely test for pertussis (or at least give a better explanation of why the symptoms don’t fit) and be much more proactive about getting to the bottom of this so that your son can get proper treatment. Good luck! I hope he starts to feel better soon.

    • mags, I am absolutely not deleting this! I am grateful that you happened to click through today -good timing! and I’m glad angela chimed in, such great insight from a nurse. please let us know what happens!

    • carolina

      I hope you’ve been able to get some answers by now, otherwise is there any way you can change doctors?? I’m so sorry, but I would not tolerate that. You are your child’s best advocate and I would be pushing a lot harder. Take him to the health department, if need be. You can also take him to a lab and request the tests without a doctor’s referral – you would probably have to pay for it out of pocket, but at least you would have proof in order to get proper treatment. Best wishes to you and your little one!

  2. I’m SO sorry Owen has pertussis. That is absolutely miserable, and quite frankly, makes me a little angry. I have many, many friends who are anti-vax for one reason or another, and I have done quite a bit of research. (Real research, not googling “why are vaccines bad?”) In all my research and in talking to friends who happen to be doctors or scientists, (people who wouldn’t lie for the sake of a commission), I’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. Junior needed all his shots in order to get his cochlear implants, so had I refused them, he would not be able to hear right now. Wow.

    All that to say, I hope and pray Owen is better soon 🙁

    My show and tell post this week also appeared on “The Mighty”, and is about Junior’s Diagnosis Day. Specifically, what I would tell myself if I knew then what I know now.

  3. 3

    So sorry to hear about your little boy getting pertussis! But glad he’s going to be okay. Living in San Diego right now is kind of scary with measles and whooping cough outbreaks!

  4. Those immunizations stats are horrifying. I have a little one who isn’t completely vaccinated, also. We’ve been covered by herd immunization from being in daycare for so long. But, after reading your facts about CA, I had to quickly check Illinois state laws for school-age immunizations now that we’re in public school.

    All kidding aside from Twitter, it’s hard as a parent to live between overreacting to every single sniffle and ignoring serious symptoms. Of course, you never feel you made the right judgement call, either. I worry I don’t worry enough!

    • it’s tough being a parent! I think the key is trusting your gut, right? our gut told us this wasn’t a good cough from day 1. gotta go with that gut….thanks for your comments and tweets, bonnie!

  5. 5

    I’m so sorry about your son. Hope he feels better soon.

    I find the low immunization rates so frustrating, and scary. It is especially scary when your child can’t get vaccinated because of a medical reason or because they are too young — these are the children most likely to have severe consequences from catching the measles or pertussis.

    The vaccine coverage at ours school is pretty good, but of course, we go other places where the kids could easily be exposed — children’s museums, the mall, etc

    • it is frustrating. I really hope that these outbreaks have an impact, but I remember hearing a this american life episode about an outbreak of one of these diseases years ago in san diego and the anti-vaxers got more firm in their beliefs. it was an incredibly frustrating thing to hear.

      thanks so much for your comment, kristen!

  6. I found your blog today by Swagbucks searching “Mommy bloggers food,” and I’m glad I did. I discovered (I guess I have been living under a rock) on Thursday about the measles outbreak, and even though I had already written one of my “ranty” Thoughtful Thursday posts, I needed to opine…especially when I read a story about an infant who had to be quarantined (being below the MMR vax age) for a month because of a chance exposure at the doctor’s office.

  7. 7

    So glad you brought up this subject, even though it had to come by personal experience. Another thing worth noting is that the vaccine can and does wear off in adulthood! I was diagnosed with it when my youngest was 8 months old (I was 36 at the time, almost 41 now). It was seriously so, so, so, so awful and very scary. My youngest has Reactive Airway Disease (at his age now they will call it asthma) and was diagnosed with that at age 5 months. Thank goodness he had already had 3/4 of his shots for this or there’s a high chance he would have caught it from me. I also wore a surgical mask while I had it, to try and help not spread it, which I’m sure helped. The recovery was awful and lengthy for me as well – I wasn’t able to take the “heavy duty” antibiotics because I was exclusively breast feeding at the time and they weren’t safe for breastfeeding mothers (my youngest had sensory issues and wouldn’t eat anything other than breast milk). The “lesser” medications didn’t help much so I basically had to just do comfort measures and ride it out for over 10 weeks. Anyway, that’s my long way of saying that it’s not just a childhood illness – it’s worth getting your adult vaccines up to date as well. 😉

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