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24 October 2009 @ 05:01 pm
If anybody's wondering...  
I finally posted about vaccines and misinformation because I reached a critical mass of annoyance.

In the past few weeks I've been bombarded with misinformation and junk science links. Just today I got another one about how aspirin was the real cause of most of the Spanish Flu deaths, not the flu itself.

I posted on Facebook innocently that I had finally gotten my seasonal flu shot and got a bunch of responses about how dangerous vaccines are and of course the one person who always says "I got a flu shot once and got sick the next day so I'll never get one again." Um...you can't get symptoms that fast after exposure anyway. It has to incubate first. You were already incubating the flu if you got sick.

Then a pregnant woman who got the H1N1 vaccine was writing that all the information from the anti-vaccine crowd had her freaked out that she was hurting her fetus. That one put me over the edge because she had done the sensible thing but these people were scaring her with their junk science links and misinformation.

Get the vaccine or don't get the vaccine, I don't care, that's just more for me and my family. But please just stop with the hysteria over the vaccine and get your information from reputable sources.

I use natural medicine to some extent--I just read carefully before I do. I'm not anti-herbal medicine, acupuncture, or other natural therapies. I do believe that herbs are powerful enough to cause harm if you don't do your research and aren't careful about what you combine them with.

But I have seen natural medicine go horribly wrong. Here's just one example: a couple was staying with me and they'd been to Guatemala recently. The guy turned yellow and wasn't feeling well and went to a natural doc, a Chinese herbal medicine doc and acupuncturist. He was told that his liver had too many toxins and sent home with some herbs. He was cooking for our family in return for staying rent free. He gave my daughter and myself Hepatitis Type A, the kind you get from someone not washing their hands well after a bowel movement. We managed to get my son a gamma globulin shot and he didn't get it. We were as sick as dogs, and we fortunately just had a mild case. Hep A can kill in some cases. We could have avoided infection if he had been diagnosed correctly.

On the other hand, I had an acupuncturist cure something that a Western doc said it would take surgery to resolve. (Hardened matter in my tear duct after an infection, forming a huge lump--the herbs dissolved it.)

So I can see both sides of the natural/Western medicine debate, really I can. But science has done so much more for us than natural medicine had done in centuries. Our increased life spans is just one indicator of it's efficacy. Scientific method has given us every major advancement. My son would be dead without Western medicine.

In the area where I live, there are so many people not vaccinating their children that the old diseases have been making a comeback. When I was in college, not realizing that my immunity had worn off, I got whooping cough. I got to find out why it used to be so feared, in spite of the anti-vaccination folks saying it is a mild illness. That wasn't my experience or my daughter's. I didn't know there was an outbreak but she got it at school and brought it home.

With whooping cough the mucus is so thick it covers your throat until you can barely draw in breath to cough. There is just a tiny opening and it takes every ounce of strength to keep breathing in to get enough air to cough and try to clear your airway. You do this over and over again before you can breath easily, only to repeat the process later. All the usual things, expectorant, fluids, etc., don't seem to help.

I could imagine how the small children used to die just because they didn't have my adult strength to do this over and over and over again.

There's a reason we developed these vaccines. These diseases killed our children. Go to any cemetery and look at the many grave stones for young children of the past. (I walk through cemeteries just because I like them and I've seen.) People almost expected to lose a child pre-vaccine, pre-antibiotic, it happened so frequently. When we first got the vaccines, parents thought differently about the rare instances of bad reactions to them when compared to how many deaths they had seen before. Now, we've forgotten, and the rare reactions loom larger than the diseases we've never seen. So they're coming back. Maybe they need to in order to teach a whole new generation why they were feared.
Erik: myMamaSaideriktrips on October 25th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
Now, we've forgotten, and the rare reactions loom larger than the diseases we've never seen. So they're coming back. Maybe they need to in order to teach a whole new generation why they were feared.

from what I have heard and seen this seems a very reasonable statement of what is going on, notwithstanding the hyper-paranoid anti-science people who hate anything that comes with the back-up of carefully analyzed empirical evidence instead of scary emotional appeals. but those appeals themselves play up the rare negative reactions and often demonstrate complete cultural amnesia regarding the seriousness of the diseases prevented by vaccination.

I get my flu shot now. I don't know what happened two years ago, but I had a wildly feverish flu that went into pneumonia. I spent four hours after waking one morning trying to get enough oxygen that I could put on clothes and go to urgent care. maybe I've reached "that age," but anything would be preferable to another episode of that; mild flu symptoms after a shot would be a walk in the park.

there are reasons why people died young less than 150 years ago. besides war. either no one is teaching this part of history or no one is paying attention or we just have too hard a time imagining anything we ourselves have not experienced. I suspect the latter because it explains a lot of other irrational behavior as well.
Tapatitapati on October 25th, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)

Talks about deaths before vaccination and some of the reasons why people are not getting their kids vaccinated.

I suspect you're right--we have a hard time imagining things that happened before our lifetimes. I've read a bunch of historical fiction so I've read about the times when polio and other diseases were common. The grave stones were also pretty convincing for me. It's hard to ignore the tiny little stones with birth and death so close together. Heartbreaking.
Ms. F.goodbadgirl on October 25th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
"But science has done so much more for us than natural medicine had done in centuries."

Not that I disagree with you but this is hard to prove -given that the multiple thousands of years people have been using natural medicine is largely undocumented and that "Science" sort of correlates nicely with the advancement of mass and cheaper publishing tools. Meaning, we don't really know the extent of what has been done with natural medicine because it has not been recorded for us to study in the same way newer, Western medicine has.

Increased life span does not always equal increased quality of life.

All good science is based in nature - and I think, personally, if I was having a heart attack I'd want to be in a hospital emergency room....but as far as my on-going chronic and disabling illness goes....."western" medicine and "natural" medicine are pretty much neck in neck in terms of improving my condition. I think, esp, in America we are experts at acute, critical medicine - but we often fail miserably when it comes to preventative health.

But I agree. If you decide to get a vaccine that is your choice and no one should jump down your throat for that decision.

And yes, the internet is sadly full of junk and misinformed medical "advice." To the point where doctors and health care professionals are growing incredibly weary of people who have internet-diagnosed themselves with something they simply don't have.

Of course - doctors and health care professionals are also ignoring and blowing off large portions of the population coming to them with new, unseen symptoms and complaints because they don't fit neatly into the doctor's understanding of what exists. And issues of environmental and social justice play heavily into this.

I like integrative medicine for this reason. I feel like I have the best tools of both worlds at my disposal - and a classically trained Western doc with an open mind who is willing to look outside of the box if it means his patients will be helped.

My 4ml syringes of penicillin (which I take twice a week im) to fight the Lyme disease cost me over $100 per syringe. I have called several drug manufacturers for assistance (a round of treatment is 12 shots, and my doctor wants me to have 2-3 rounds.) In the same week I was told by two separate drug companies that A)The penicillin I need is an older version which is so rarely used not they do not make a generic version and that's why it is so expensive. and B) The penicillin I use is brand new and just on the market - and the patent for that medication forbids patience assistance programs and that's why it is so expensive. Which of these scientists is lying to me? Certainly one of them.

As long as health care remains "for profit" I think it's wise for all of us to be our own best advocates and research for ourselves no matter what path we choose to take - because as long as money is involved we can't assume the people who are profiting have our best interests at heart.

It would be really nifty if the anti-vaccine crowd donated their children's polio and measles vaccines to parents in the developing world where these diseases still kill children and wreak havoc on many lives. I bet they'd be more than happy to accept them.

And if someone super natural health advocate with insurance wants to pick up my $3600 penicillin tab on their under-used blue cross card I'd gladly accept it too. :)
Tapatitapati on October 27th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC)
I think the two systems can combine quite well if people are careful about what herbs and meds they mix up. Just like meds can be contra-indicated if combines, so can herbs and some meds.

I believe we have enough of the historical and anthropological record to know that while some advances were made in natural medicine, and it worked as a palliative in many cases, Western medicine has taken us places we never would have gone with just natural methods. I wouldn't be alive, my vigorously dancing 93 year old grandfather-in-law wouldn't be alive, my mom wouldn't have lived as long, my son wouldn't be here...whether emergency trauma or chronic heart condition/stroke survivor, Western medicine has helped people in my family live longer and be active longer than herbs/acupuncture/homeopathy etc could have managed. This is true of other chronic diseases too. Herbs helped manage them up to a point, but death would have come much sooner.

[Note: the first burr holes to relieve pressure in the brain were done thousands of years ago! Early brain surgery! http://www.brain-surgery.com/history.html ]

Now the way we organize our system of delivering care sucks, Western medicine could be more user friendly and more focused on prevention and viewing the whole patient rather than just the part that's diseased. But there are quacks and charlatans and just plain out-to-rob-you natural medicine practitioners too. I remember reading Paula Kamen's account of all the people she saw in the natural med community and they were all willing to tell her she had migraines for x reason and they had the cure. She spent a lot of money so I didn't have to. Yes there are therapies that help to some degree, but no one cure-all. Yet they'll try to sell you one if you have the money.

People aren't perfect--and the systems we create have our flaws, unfortunately.

I love your solution of donations...if only we could work it that way. :)
3treekisser: Heliconia3treekisser on October 25th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
+++So they're coming back. Maybe they need to in order to teach a whole new generation why they were feared.+++

One of those uncharitable statements I secretly endorse and am glad someone else said first!
Tapatitapati on October 27th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
I wasn't trying to be uncharitable, but simply starkly realistic. People don't fear what they no longer know. The anti-vax crowd is full of stories about how so and so (an adult) had whooping cough and it wasn't bad at all. Perhaps. For an adult. It KILLED children but now they laugh in its face.
Matrinkamatrinka69 on October 26th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Here's the deal: natural medicines do work, if handled correctly. BUT that is no reason not to vaccinate your kids.

I'm an herbalist. I reach for natural methods first every time for treating colds, flu, etc., but I made sure that every one of my kids got their shots. When the shot for chicken pox came out, I had their titers pulled and then they got it if they needed it (some of our family are naturally immune to weird stuff, so we check first- no sense in vaccinating for something you're already immune to, right?) and when they came out with the shot for HPV, I pushed for the girls to get them, too. If you can prevent illness, do so. Use natural treatments where appropriate, and reach for the allopathic meds when that's what is needed.

Healing modalities don't have to be exclusive. In fact, it is when we shun all but one method that we lose the gift of nature and science working in tandem. Science has given us lots of stuff that is great. Nature gave science the materials to work with. Together, you've got everything you need to deal with most ailments- either to prevent or treat them.
Tapatitapati on October 27th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Natural medicines are effective, don't get me wrong, I do believe in them...for some things and in the hands of knowledgeable people.

There are quacks and charlatans in every line of medicine, natural and Western.

I often take a lot of flak because I believe in both. Purists on either side are quick to condemn me as they extol the virtues of their favorite system.

I do know that without Western medicine I wouldn't be alive and without herbal medicine I would have more migraines.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on October 28th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
Mari concurs.