parent opinion

“At 5pm, my baby was grizzly. By 8pm, she was screaming. By 9am, she was in emergency.”

“You know what annoys me? How quickly parents reach for baby Nurofen,” the blonde one said.

Her brunette friend nodded emphatically. “Oh, I know. It’s just a fever! Mums are just so quick to medicate these days…”

Confession: I was eavesdropping. Newly pregnant with baby number two, I was still finding my confidence as a mum so conversations like this were riveting to me. And I was intrigued. Don’t you give Nurofen when your child has a fever? What’s the alternative? (Ice baths, apparently).

To clarify, I wasn’t eavesdropping, exactly. I was at a friend’s daughter’s birthday and I knew no one else there except for her, and no one was talking to me. I was too shy to try and chit-chat with this cluster of confident, hippy mums who were clearly lifelong friends.

So.

Seven months later, my second daughter Noa was born, and she was a delight from the moment she arrived. She breastfed easily, slept well and snuggled happily all day, so when she was three-weeks-old and became suddenly grizzly and irritable, I knew something was wrong.

Then, I remembered those mums at the party.

Malcolm Turnbull talks to Mamamia about the anti vaccination movement. Post continues below…

It’s just a fever.

Mums are so quick to medicate.

And just like that, I doubted myself.

My instinct was to reach for Nurofen to bring her fever down, but I wondered if I was over-reacting?

At 5pm, she was grizzly.

By 8pm, she was screaming.

By 10pm, I called the government health hotline to check if I should give her Nurofen (why didn’t I give it to her straight away?!)

By midnight, she had settled a little in bed with me.

By 5am, she was getting worse again, so I called an after-hours doctor, but they had a five hour waitlist. So, I saw my regular GP as soon as it opened.

At 9am, he saw her and immediately sent us to emergency. That kicked off a five day hospital stay that included two lumbar punctures, an x-ray, a cannula in her arm, realms of antibiotics and what felt like every other test known to man.

noa
Sarah's daughter Noa in hospital. Image: Supplied.
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Whopping cough, meningococcal, meningitis, measles… these were some of the terrifying diseases that were discussed. She wound up being diagnosed with viral meningitis. We are endlessly grateful that it was viral rather than bacterial meningitis, which can have far more devastating outcomes.

Happily, she made a full recovery; she’s now five and cheeky and sweet and loving.

But when I reflect on that experience, I recognise the incredible power of persuasion. These women persuaded me to rethink my parenting decisions – and they had no idea they were even influencing me. I was just a new mum, finding my feet, absorbing ideas and insights from other parents around me.

And that’s how we’ve ended up here, at this crucial juncture. Where we’re listening to the wrong people, being influenced by those who are unqualified to influence, and the consequences are potentially lethal.

Just this month, at the same time that we've celebrated having rubella officially added to the "eradicated" list in Australia, we're more at risk of measles than ever, as WHO has just confirmed that the anti-vax movement has prompted a 30 per cent jump in measles cases worldwide.

Thirty per cent.

rise of measles
Sarah's daughter Noa luckily made a full recovery. Image: Supplied.
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Martin Friede, WHO's director of immunisation, vaccines and biological, said that “supposed experts making accusations against the vaccine without any evidence” has had an impact on parents' decisions. He specifically cited medically baseless claims linking the measles vaccine to autism.

As a result, multiple countries – including Germany, Russia and Venezuela – have had their measles elimination certificate withdrawn over the last year.

The bottom line is that, yes, we need to encourage critical thinking when it comes to our kids’ health. But we also need to truly look at the source, and look at the agenda, reputation and expertise of the person we're listening to.

We live in an age when anyone with a few bucks and an internet connection can design a logo, set up a WordPress account and become a self-proclaimed "expert". Medical professionals aren't infallible, but they study for literally a decade-plus.

This gives them the credentials to put forward their medical recommendations, as opposed to some random who believes they cured their IBS through juicing and now wants to spread the word that “natural is best”.

To be clear, I'm not saying that vaccinating is without its risks. But they are so extremely low, when compared with the risk of your child contracting these deathly diseases.

Three-year-old Jasmine is up-to-date with all her vaccinations. So how come she has meningococcal? We take a look at this horrible story all parents need to hear. Post continues below...

After my daughter became so ill, I became passionate about advocating for child health, because I have the opinion that vaccinating your child is like putting up a big shield. Anyone who doesn't vaccinate needs to really consider how they would cope if their child got a serious, preventable disease, and they chose not to vaccinate.

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I’m also passionate because of stats like this: right now, every year, there are more than 200,000 babies who die in third-world countries of rotavirus.

That’s gastro.

These babies and toddlers die of gastro.

Can you imagine?

In Australia, we have FREE and EASY access to rotovirus immunisations. It’s on the vaccination schedule. As is hepatitis B, tetanus, polio, whooping cough and more.

Ask questions. Do research. Get educated about vaccination side effects. But do not listen to the wrong people when it comes to immunisations. We take our access to them for granted – and it is criminal if we don’t have a damn good reason why we would walk away from them.

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