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When Vaccination Status Creates a Treatment Dilemma

Story Highlights
  • Many medical doctors are refusing to accept new patients if they are unvaccinated; others have expelled existing patients from their practice for refusing a recommended vaccine.
  • Enlightened health care providers have a medicine chest full of recommended measures for treating the symptoms and riding out the infection, as millions of parents have done through the ages.
  • Measles, mumps, chickenpox, shingles and pertussis are usually illnesses that can be safely treated without vaccination.

In the current climate of hypercritical censorship against those who choose to delay or forgo vaccination, many parents are running into unforeseen difficulties when they seek formal medical treatment, especially if a child has contracted an infectious disease considered by traditional doctors to be preventable through vaccination. Many medical doctors are refusing to accept new patients if they are unvaccinated; others have expelled existing patients from their practice for refusing a recommended vaccine.

As far back as 2001, an American Academy of Pediatrics survey showed that 23% of physicians “always” or “sometimes” refuse to act as a child’s pediatrician if parents will not comply with vaccination guidelines;1 it is better to find an empathetic doctor before one is needed. In other cases, even if they are willing to treat, doctors may not recognize diseases they no longer see very often, or have never seen. When doctors assume a patient is protected by vaccine, against pertussis, for example, the disease may not be considered in the diagnosis, even now that it is clear the pertussis vaccine wanes over time.1 It is therefore prudent to be as familiar as we can be with some of the conditions we might run up against.

Managing Less Common Illnesses

If you suspect you or your child has been exposed to or come down with a previously ubiquitous childhood disease, such as measles, mumps or chickenpox, enlightened health care providers have a medicine chest full of recommended measures for treating the symptoms and riding out the infection, as millions of parents have done through the ages.

Measles

Measles, or rubeola, is a highly contagious disease respiratory infection caused by a virus (paramyxovirus).  Despite a drastic drop in incidence in developed countries including the U.S. since the vaccine was introduced in 1963, there are more than 30,000 cases of measles every year, worldwide. Contracting measles used to be a rite of passage—90% of susceptible people exposed to the virus develop the disease, most often within two weeks of exposure—and, while it may become extremely serious in extremely rare cases, it is most often just an uncomfortable and uncomplicated childhood illness. Once the patient recovers, he or she is immune for life. To read more about measles and the measles vaccine, see NVIC.org. Measles.

What to look for:3

  • Typical flu-like symptoms including fever, runny nose, cough, and sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes)
  • Red spots with bluish white centers (called Koplik’s spots) on the inside of the mouth, usually one of the first characteristics to appear that can help distinguish measles from flu)
  • Red, blotchy, itchy rash, which begins on the face and then spreads down the body
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands)
  • Rarely (1 in 1,000 cases), extreme drowsiness, seizure or coma may indicate central nervous system involvement
  • Less commonly, measles can also include gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting

Pregnant women, infants younger than one year old and patients with a weakened immune system may be given a protein (antibody) injection called hyper-immune gamma globulin within 5 days of exposure to someone with measles.4

Measles is highly contagious, mostly from about four days before the rash breaks out until four days after. Generally, children may resume their normal activities after 7 to 10 days, once the rash and fever have disappeared.

In almost all cases, it is only necessary to let the virus run its course and to keep the patient isolated and as comfortable as possible. In the rare cases that become serious or life threatening, the rapid onset of a very high fever will make it apparent early in the course of the disease that a trip to the hospital is warranted. In general, however, doctors say treat measles as you would a flu, with some added attention for the itchiness and the sensitivity to light. Patients will be very tired, achy and uncomfortable itchy and will require hydration, rest and protection from bright lights. Colloidal (very finely ground) oatmeal in a warm bath is very soothing, though water that is too hot can actually increase the itching. Some relief for the sore mouth and throat has been reported with natural remedies including saltwater gargles and licorice root tea with honey.5

Chickenpox/Shingles

Chickenpox is another highly contagious disease this one caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is a member of the herpes virus family. It almost always occurs during childhood. Prior to introduction of the varicella vaccine in 1995, 90% of American children had had the illness by the time they reached 15 years of age. For the vast majority of children chickenpox is a mild disease characterized by small, round, extremely itchy blisters all over the body that last for one or two weeks. The disease is much more serious when contracted as an adult, and since the virus remains dormant in the system following infection, without an immunity boost through exposure to naturally infected children, reinfection later in life may be expressed as herpes zoster (shingles). To read more about chickenpox, shingles and the varicella vaccine, see NVIC.org. Chickenpox (Varicella).

What to look for:6

  • Typically, the chickenpox rash looks like clusters of small blisters on an irritated red field. The rash usually begins on the scalp or chest and rapidly spreads to the rest of the body. The blisters are extremely itchy and usually break, ooze, then dry out to a crusty scab over a few days.
  • The rash usually appears a few days after exposure and can take a week or two to complete its cycle.
  • Also expect flu-like symptoms, headache, loss of appetite and low-grade fever.
  • Shingles usually starts with redness and a rash on one side of the body only.
  • The shingles rash is usually accompanied by
  •  Fever
  •  Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Upset stomach

Besides patience, one of the most useful tools recommended by doctors for management of the intense discomfort of chickenpox or shingles is the cool water compress.7 Antihistamines (if appropriate for age of the patient) may relieve severe itchiness, but adding colloidal (fine-ground) oatmeal, brown vinegar or baking soda to a lukewarm bath may be equally soothing.8 It is important to trim nails short, both to avoid infection and to keep from breaking and spreading the blisters.

For very young children, it may be necessary to cover the hands with soft mitts to prevent them from scratching, which can increase the chances of leaving the telltale scars that used to be a hallmark of chickenpox infection. Health care professionals warn against using aspirin in children under age 20 because it increases the risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but sometimes fatal infection, and note that since fever can kill the bacteria and viruses that cause illness, any fever-reducing agent should only be used if it is causing extreme discomfort.9

Mumps

Mumps is a contagious viral disease spread through saliva and characterized by severe swelling of the parotid glands, the largest of the salivary glands just behind the angle of the jaw. Before the vaccine was introduced in 1967, mumps was another “rite of passage” disease endured with discomfort but few serious consequences by most school-aged children. Symptoms usually surface between two and three weeks following exposure.

What to look for:10

  • The characteristic symptom of mumps is major swelling of the glands on the side of the face along the jaw line.
  • There may be fever, chills, headache, loss of appetite and generaized discomfort.
  • Chewing or swallowing may be painful.
  • In men who are infected with mumps after puberty, inflammation of the testicles may occur (about 25% of cases

Management of mumps involves soft foods, plenty of fluids and measures to ease discomfort, such as cold packs on the affected areas. Soothing herbal teas and probiotics to strengthen the immune system may also be of help. In almost all cases, mumps goes away on its own, though rare complications that may occur in adults can include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and its membranous coverings), deafness, orchitis, pancreatitis, and miscarriage in early pregnancy.11 To read more about mumps, see NVIC.org, mumps.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria, “one of the most lethal toxins in nature,”12 and is making a comeback, as has been reported increasingly since 2010, especially among babies and teens. Experts say incidence of the disease is known to ebb and flow, but increases in the cyclical outbreaks have been attributed to the waning effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine, which is now known to decrease sharply following the last of five shots children are recommended to have, and “increasing their risk of acquiring the disease by 42% each year. In other words… a vaccine that was 95% effective to start would be only 71% effective five years later.”13 Most health care providers recommend getting immediate medical attention for children suspected of having pertussis as the disease can be devastating in babies and toddlers.14 15 To read more about pertussis (whooping cough) and the pertussis vaccine, see NVIC.org, pertussis.  

What to look for:16

  • In the early stages of pertussis, symptoms mimic those of many upper respiratory illnesses, with coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and perhaps a slight fever.
  • As the disease progresses, the cough worsens and may end with the characteristic “whoop” and gasping for breath.
  • Coughing bouts may be intense and can include choking or vomiting, bulging eyes and bluish discoloration.
  • Pneumonia may develop.
  • Following the acute stage, the cough may take months to go away completely.

Among treatments for pertussis, doctors recommend medical interventions including antibiotics, corticosteroids and albuterol. Over-the-counter cough preparations are not thought to be effective. It may be necessary to suction secretions and provide IV fluids and oxygen for infants and immunosuppressed patients.

Less dramatic measures suggested to augment traditional therapies include high doses of vitamin C (recommendations range from 500 to 3,000 mg/day for children,17  and up to 5,000 mg/day18 or even much higher19; consult a trusted health care provider). Hydration, use of a warm-mist humidifier with essential oils, avoiding mucus-producing foods such as milk, flour and eggs andsleepingin a more upright position may be beneficial. Homeopathic remedies also are available to help alleviate the severe cough and mucus overload.20

A Final Word

As the battle wages for control of our medical health and for the right to make medical decisions on behalf of ourselves and our children, every bit of available information can be useful in preparation for inevitable times of illness.


References:

1 ABCNews, K. Fiore. Strong Beliefs About Vaccines Work Both Ways. March 4, 2011.
2 Haelle T. Shooting the Wheeze: Whooping Cough Vaccine Falls Short of Previous Shot’s Protection. Scientific American. May 21, 2013.
3 University of Maryland Medical Center. Measles. Oct. 2010.
4 http://www.nativeremedies.com/ailment/natural-treatments-for-measles-symptoms.html
5 Schultz R. 7 Natural Ways to Treat a Sore Throat. Fox News. September 14, 2014.
6 University of Maryland Medical Center, Varicella-zoster virus. 2010.
7 WebMD. Chickenpox (Varicella) – Home Treatment. Aug. 23, 2013.
8 Top10HomeRemedies.com. Chickenpox. 2013.
9 Chickenpox (Varicella) – Home Treatment. WebMD. Aug. 23, 2013.
10 University of Maryland Medical Center. Mumps. May 7, 2013.
11 University of Maryland Medical Center. Mumps. May 7, 2013.
12 Mercola J. Almost 20% of Fully Vaccinated Children with Persistent Cough “Have Whooping Cough.” Mercola.com. July8, 2014.
13 Park A. Whooping Cough Vaccine Wanes Over Time. Healthland.Time. Sept. 13, 2012.
14 University of Maryland Medical Center. Pertussis. April 16, 2012.
15 Mercola J. Almost 20% of Fully Vaccinated Children with Persistent Cough “Have Whooping Cough.” Mercola.com. July 8, 2014.
16 University of Maryland Medical Center. Pertussis. April 16, 2012.
17 University of Maryland Medical Center. Pertussis. April 16, 2012.
18 Mercola J. Almost 20% of Fully Vaccinated Children with Persistent Cough “Have Whooping Cough.” Mercola.com. July8, 2014.
19 Humphries S. The Vitamin C Treatment for Whooping Cough. The Vaccination Council. Sept. 7, 2012.
20 O’Mara P. Pertussis Epidemic. Peggyomara.com. June 19, 2014.

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