1. Blah blah blah Flu shot blah blah blah Why???
That’s what most people really hear, when a doctor like me is talking about the importance of getting a flu shot. I just know a lot of you are tuning out even now and either won’t read to the very end of this article, or if on TV, your eyes will glaze, the selective deafness will begin and you won’t get the message - again. Just like every year, when you decide that you’re too invincible to get a flu shot!
We talk about the flu every year because it's one infectious disease that is not only more aggressive and dangerous, especially for the very young and very old, it's also vaccine-preventable.
2. Symptoms of Influenza
Influenza is a respiratory virus that causes several days of cough, high fever, body aches and sometimes even pneumonia. It makes you feel like you’ve been hit by a train (which by the way, is much worse than being hit by a truck).
Influenza severity is unpredictable from year to year, so we immunize annually to protect against serious infections for new strains of the influenza virus that circulate.
Unlike viruses that cause the common cold, we have a vaccine for influenza.
We want all children to get the flu shot, but we also really prioritize those at higher risk for serious infection: infants, children under age 5 years, pregnant moms, the elderly and people of all ages with chronic disease (i.e. asthma, diabetes, neurologic conditions).
I've had several patients refuse the flu shot and subsequently get influenza. A few of my patients have required hospitalization for influenza and several have had serious infections requiring multiple visits to clinic, ER trips and respiratory distress. Whenever this happens in an unvaccinated patient, I’ve got to think that I've failed to deliver my message properly.
The great news with flu is that we can improve protection. The majority of the 150+ children who died last year from flu in this country were not vaccinated. And although it's true that the vaccine doesn't protect 100% of those who get it, it does protect most from life-threatening illness.
3. Can you get the flu shot too early?
The big message is to get all children and all adults up to date on their flu shots as early as possible. It’s not like you’re going to ‘run out of immunity’ or something.
Getting a flu shot is the #1 best way to prevent a life-threatening infection from the flu.
Get vaccinated early, especially if in high-risk populations. Flu season is unpredictable and the earlier you and your children are immunized, the more likely you are protected from flu if and when exposed.
4. Who should get Flu Shots?
We recommend a flu shot for ALL infants and children 6 months of age and up. It's also recommended for all household contacts of infants and young children.
What type of flu shot?
Trivalent (3 viral strain) flu shots this year contain one new influenza A strain, H1N1 influenza A, and 1 influenza B strain.
For the current 2013-14 season there is a new quadrivalent influenza vaccine (4 strains) that contains the same 3 strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. BUT there is no recommendation over getting one over another.
The 3 main strains of influenza included in the shot are predicted to cause illness here in the United States and North America.
5. What Parents Need to Know
- Flu shots for all children 6 months of age and up.
- Egg-allergic children should be vaccinated. Most children diagnosed with egg allergy can safely receive influenza vaccine in the pediatrician's office without an allergy consultation as the vaccine is well-received by nearly all children and adults who have egg allergy. For children with a history of severe egg allergy-- an allergy consultation is still recommended. If concerned about your child's allergy, talk with their doctor first.
- Children under 9 may need second dose if they've not had two doses since 2010.
- Protect infants and those at higher-risk for severe infections starting now and ensure you return for boosters as needed. Remind teens, siblings, Grandma, Grandpa, nannies, babysitters and any caregivers to get a flu shot to protect young children at home.
6. So tell me why again? Why are we doing this?
Why do we get a flu shot? My kids aren’t babies, and they’re healthy. They are not at any unusual risk from the flu. But don’t forget those around us ARE AT RISK — our elderly neighbors, our older relatives and the aging community we would be sneezing on in line at the pharmacy.
Our shots protect us, and that protection extends to the prematurely born infant son of the father waiting in line in front of us at the grocery store and the pregnant lady at the library. So, getting a flu shot is a socially responsible thing to do really, and I have to say, we really should frown on those who don’t get a flu shot - it’s almost like tax evasion! If you can do something simple, that doesn’t harm you, to protect your community, why aren’t you doing it?
But our intentions are not entirely altruistic. Getting the flu is a drag, metaphorically and literally. We’re likely to pick up more than one virus over the winter; why not do whatever we can to prevent a week or more of misery?
And as casually as we tend to take the flu, that misery can lead to something worse. Children die from the flu every year. And although it’s true that the vaccine doesn’t protect 100% of those who get it but it does protect most from life-threatening illness.”
Getting the shot can be an inconvenience, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it for all children 6 months and older.
7. Can the flu shot make me sick?
And despite the myths, getting the flu shot will not give you the flu. What it will do is give you the pleasure of knowing that you’ve done everything you can to make this coming flu season a healthy one for your family and your community.
8. Convinced yet?
So at the first available opportunity, we all need to be rolling up our sleeves. Will you?
It's flu shot season already. Fall just started. You still thinking, "blah, blah, blah...?"