It is that time of year….time for a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older!
It is the time of year when I start my daily reminders to parents (I sometimes can be annoying, I guess)… but it is time…time for that flu shot! Put your excuses away, everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot, no ifs, ands, or buts! It seems that there are always a lot of questions about the flu shot, and lots of excuses too! Here are answers to the most common questions I have heard…
- When should I receive it?
The time is now…it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for your body to build up antibodies for influenza. Flu season can begin as early as October, but usually peaks in January and February and can last into May. There have been some early influenza cases this fall!
- Why should everyone get the flu vaccine?
The flu is a miserable illness. Many people don’t realize how sick they can be if they get true influenza. Healthy adults who are infected with the flu are often unable to work, have a difficult time caring for families, and most importantly can spread the flu to others. Those adults over 65 are at most risk for flu related deaths. Depending on the year and the flu strain, sometimes the flu will affect children more seriously. Babies under 6 months of age need to have a “cocoon” of protection around them since they are too young to receive the vaccine. That means anyone who has close contact with an infant should be immunized against the flu…parents, grandparents, siblings, and daycare providers. Pregnant women are also more at risk for complications from the flu. The Flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy, and it protects your unborn child and your baby after birth! When healthy adults are vaccinated, they are protecting themselves, the elderly, the chronically ill, and babies! So take one for the team!! If you can keep yourself and your family from getting sick, then the flu shot is an easy decision!
- Why do we need a flu vaccine every year?
Flu viruses change…and then flu vaccines change too. Studies are conducted to try to predict what flu viruses will be most prevalent each year. The vaccine is different this year from last year. Even if you had influenza last year, your immunity will fade over time. The flu vaccine serves as a boost to our immune system to help prevent the flu and it hopefully protect us from the “flu strain of the year”. Sometimes the flu vaccine is less effective than other years, but even in those years, a flu vaccine will result in a less severe case of influenza if you do become ill.
- Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No! The flu vaccine is an inactivated virus…you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine. Most side effects are very mild. There may be some soreness at the injection site, very few children even have fever.
- Last year I got the vaccine, and our whole house still came down with vomiting and diarrhea!
The flu vaccine will not protect against other viruses other than influenza. The influenza virus is a respiratory flu, not the stomach flu! Influenza can result in pneumonia, severe ear infections, wheezing, high fevers, dehydration and just feeling miserable!
- Who receives two doses?
All children between 6 months and 8 years who have never had a flu vaccine will need 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart. If your baby turns 6 months old during the flu season, he or she should receive the vaccine! If your child is older than 8 or had 2 doses in prior years, then he will only need 1 dose of the flu vaccine.
- My child is allergic to eggs, so we can’t have the vaccine.
Research shows that even children and adults who have egg allergies can receive the flu vaccine without a problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated this year in their recommendations for the 2017-2018 flu vaccine “All children with an egg allergy of any severity can receive influenza vaccine without any additional precautions beyond those recommended for any vaccine.”
September 2017 From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement
- What happened to the flu mist?
Just like last year, your only option is the flu shot. Unfortunately, the nasal mist was not as effective as the shot. So, the small “poke” is a must again this year. Be honest with your children that this small “ouch” will protect them from becoming very sick. Infants will calm very quickly after the vaccine with sucking and cuddling. Older children can be taught to take deep abdominal breaths and blow out a “candle” to try to relax or sing their A B C’s or count to 10. The small “ouch” will be over before they know it and a celebratory “high 5” and a treat (ice cream cones were always my kids’ favorite) will make that “ouch” memory fade.
I will be on my soap box about flu vaccines for a while because they are so important to so many people. Get the vaccine for the health of yourself and your family AND get it for those babies who aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine and the elderly whose immune system doesn’t always respond fully to the vaccine, and the chronically ill who may not be able to receive the vaccine…protect them too. So it is time…get that flu vaccine for everyone that you love, it is important!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.