My Son Got Toxic Synovitis After The Flu Shot -- And I Will Still Vaccinate Every Year

by Fallon Renay
Originally Published: 
A boy getting vaccinated
Scary Mommy and baona/Getty

Picture this: I was sitting in the pediatric doctor’s office with all three of my boys to get their annual flu shots. The nurse came into the room, looked at the boys, and said cheerily, “Oh, wonderful, so we’re all here to get our flu shots!”

My youngest son Lucas, who was six at the time, flipped out. Seriously, I have to lie to get my kids to the doctor, even if it’s a checkup that they are okay with; it’s the prospect of getting shots that scares them. I knew in my gut that if I had told them where they were going and why, he would have stressed out the whole way there.

He proceeded to jump off of the exam table onto the floor, crying that there is no way he was getting a shot and trying to leave the room. I looked at the nurse like she was absolutely bonkers. I mean, she literally walked into a pediatric room and said the dreaded word “shot.” I asked her to hurry and go get the shots, adding that I could not hold him there forever, and then proceeded to pull my crying son into the room and place him back on the table with the help of my oldest son. Lucas cried, and the nurse couldn’t get the shot in his arm, so it was administered in his upper thigh My oldest two griped a little because they knew what was coming, but they took it like champs.

The following day, Lucas complained that his leg hurt. Of course, his leg was going to hurt — this can be a normal reaction to a shot — so I gave him some ibuprofen and all seemed well. But that night he began vomiting and complaining again that his leg hurt. At that point, I thought he was having a reaction to the shot, which would still be in the realm of “normal.” He stopped vomiting, but I planned on keeping him home from school the next day in case it was a stomach virus.

The next morning when he woke up, he could not walk and was crawling on the floor. At first, I thought he was over-exaggerating, but upon questioning him, I realized that this was serious. I took him to urgent care nearby and they were unsure what was wrong with my son, so I called his pediatric doctors and took him there right after the urgent care. Thankfully, they were able to work us in.

In retrospect, I should have taken him to the emergency department, but I really did not want him to have to wait for hours to be seen. His pediatrician was able to get him an appointment with an orthopedic doctor within two hours. Long story short, we found out at the orthopedic doctor’s office that he had toxic synovitis.

Experts say that toxic synovitis is “most commonly caused by a viral infection. It occasionally develops after getting a vaccine or from taking some medicines. The viral infection, vaccine, or medicine triggers a process that leads to an immune response that affects the joints.” Basically, he was inflamed from the introduction of a virus.

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Now, he was not sick before the flu shot and was not sick when this was happening. The only thing that could have caused toxic synovitis was the flu shot. Thankfully, it was not something that was permanent, nor did it cause him any lasting harm. He was on crutches for two weeks and after that, he was good to go. Can you imagine how I felt? I was the one who had forced him into getting the flu shot.

Would I do it differently and not give him a flu shot next year? Absolutely not. I would give him the flu shot every single year (heck, twice a year) if I knew it had a chance to possibly save his life. I have been a helicopter mom since my firstborn was laid into my arms. Obsessive with every aspect of him, absolutely obsessed with doing what is right and what is best for my children. I have tried to do just this and at many times failed. To date, over 50 children have died so far this flu season. That is 50+ too many.

Everyone is at risk for the flu, and I am so terrified of the virus. Every year we face the same warnings as the previous year. We have all heard them, year after year: “You better get your flu shot, it’s starting sooner than it did last year, it’s worse this year than it was last year, the vaccine is not really a match for this year’s strain.”

As a mom, I see the latest child’s story that passed away from the virus and pray every single day that my child won’t be next. My fear has overcome me to the point that I really do not want to send my kids to school during flu season. I check my kids’ temperature all the time to the point of being obsessive, and the moment they cough, my anxiety spirals out of control.

Why am I this way? As far as viruses go, I have dealt with the vast majority of them since becoming a mom of three boys. I am not ashamed to admit it either. All three of my children have asthma, and if there is something to catch, my kids will catch it. We have had it all: Fifth disease, Sixth disease, strep, croup, pinkeye, scarlet fever, hand foot and mouth, and even rotavirus before there was a vaccine for that.

Keep your children at home if they are sick. If they are running a fever, do not give them ibuprofen or Tylenol to make it through the day. If they are sick, KEEP THEM AT HOME. There are children at school who absolutely cannot get the flu. They have medical issues that will make getting the flu much worse for them. Trust me, I know; my asthmatic children have to be on a nebulizer around the clock when they get sick. Schools have an attendance policy, but screw that, and them. You know what is best for your child. Get them to a doctor and get a note, and keep them at home. There is no reason to spread the flu and germs.

The flu is scary. Keep your kids safe and vaccinate, because the risks that come from getting the flu are greater than the risks of the shot itself.

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