With October almost over, influenza or flu season is upon us. The flu is one of the most common illnesses and it can be dangerous for children. Influenza can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, heart inflammation, and seizures. It could also worsen existing medical issues such as asthma. In rare cases, influenza could even lead to death. Thousands of children are hospitalized each year for the flu.
Influenza is a contagious virus that can be spread by coughing or sneezing droplets to surrounding people. It is difficult for anyone during flu season to avoid exposure to the flu, especially young children in close daycare and school environments. The first line of defense to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated.
Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
- All children age 6 months and up
- Pregnant women
- Parents and close caregivers of infants under 6 months of age, to protect the infant that cannot get vaccinated
- All adults, especially over 65 years of age
- Anyone with chronic medical problems or who is immunosuppressed
When Should My Child Get a Flu Vaccine?
According to the CDC, every child aged 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about 2 weeks after receiving a flu vaccination to be protected. Therefore, it is a good idea to get your children vaccinated at the beginning of the flu season, as early as September. However, it is never too late to get vaccinated as the flu season can last until May. If your child under age 9 years old is receiving a flu vaccine for the first time, they will need 2 doses, making it especially important to begin the process early.
Are Flu Vaccines Safe?
Years of experience have shown that the influenza vaccine is very safe. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. Influenza vaccines cannot infect your child with the flu. Common side effects, like most vaccines, include low-grade fever, achiness, and soreness at the shot site. These side effects are NOT the flu and usually go away within a few days.
Should My Child Get the Flu Shot or Nasal Spray this Year?
In past years, the flu vaccine has been offered a shot or nasal spray. For the last 2 seasons, the flu shot is preferred for children of all ages because it has been shown to be safe and more effective than the nasal spray. While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing getting the flu, it has been shown to lessen disease severity. Most vaccinated patients that still get sick with the flu report less severe symptoms and quicker recovery. Among the 183 child deaths reported to the CDC last season, about 80% were in children who were not vaccinated.
What if I have Questions about the Flu Vaccine?
It is inevitable that your children may be exposed to the flu. Getting vaccinated, covering coughs and sneezes, and good hand-washing practices are the best steps to prevent spreading flu. To schedule an appointment for a flu shot or talk with your Capital Area Pediatrics provider about other flu vaccine-related questions, find your nearest location and our staff will be happy to assist you!