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Germs! Swine flu! Vaccines! Oh my!

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I'm sitting here, chilled and stuffy, thinking about germs. This is not a subject on which I'd typically care to spend my dwindling brain cells. However, I seem to have gotten a little caught up in the whole OH MY GOD SWINE FLU DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING OR ANYONE PUT THIS BUBBLE ON YOUR HEAD anxiety. Last week my husband had the flu (ahem) and I must have asked him five times a day, "Did you hear from the lab? Do you have swine flu? Do you? Do you?" He didn't. Just the regular flu. BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN SWINE! Apparently I've also been afflicted with the dreaded Caps Lock Fever. I apologize.

Generally I have a very laissez-faire attitude toward germs. I do not disinfect my home, I clean it (occasionally). I do not worry about touching people, unless I'm sick or they are visibly sick. C'mon, everyone needs a hug! But, dang, people. Everywhere you turn there's advice about killing germs and avoiding germs and the latest death counts linked to H1N1. Am I just not supposed to read it? I suspect those awful disposable disinfecting wipes are a hot commodity these days. The schools are sending home lots of hand-washing literature and scheduling frequent sanitizer breaks throughout the day. Hate the hand sanitizer and its questionable ingredients, but I appreciate the effort to reinforce good hygiene. In general I feel that germs and bacteria are a good thing -- they make our immune systems stronger (unless they kill you). Living in a sterile environment, hosed down with toxic disinfectants will kill you!

So what is a responsible parent, a responsible citizen of the world, supposed to do with all of this information? The looming decision is, of course, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate against H1N1. I do not get a flu shot (for superstitious reasons), and as a result I seldom remember to have my kids get one. (And they're still alive!) But today I'm actually taking them in for a FluMist dose, mostly because I'm just so aware of the flu scare now. When the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, I'm not sure what we'll do. I've spent lots of time scanning articles about it, and I still don't feel like I have good information. Pro: protect yourself and others from the virus. Con: it's a rush-to-market vaccine with little-known side effects.

I'd love to hear some rational thoughts on the matter. What steps, if any, are you taking to keep your family healthy in the midst of flu season?

(And for the record, for the first time ever, I microwaved a kitchen sponge for 30 seconds yesterday.)

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