Along with the pumpkin spice-flavored goodies of fall comes flu season. This not-so-fun annual tradition begins in late autumn, peaks in winter and often overstays its welcome through late spring.
No one wants to get the flu, but did you know that kids are at a much higher risk than adults for developing dangerous or even deadly complications? Thousands of children are hospitalized with influenza every year. Some even die.
The best way to protect your children, yourself and the community as a whole is to get your family vaccinated. Here are some FAQs about the flu vaccine to help you understand why this annual shot is so important:
Q: Should I vaccinate my child against the flu?
A: Yes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that children and teens aged 6 months and older get the annual flu vaccine.
Q: Why does my child need the vaccine?
A: Aside from the misery of having the flu (plus the extreme likelihood of spreading it to other kids), young children run a very high risk of complications. These can range from dehydration to sinus infections to pneumonia and even death.
Parents of children with asthma and diabetes should take even greater care, as kids affected by chronic conditions can be extremely vulnerable. The best way to keep your kids out of harm’s way is to get them vaccinated.
Q: Is the flu vaccine safe?
A: Yes. Your child will not catch influenza from the shot, and any potential side effects will be minor – much milder than a case of the flu!
Q: When should my child receive the flu shot?
A: The simple answer is, as early in the fall as possible – ideally, before the flu begins spreading in your community. It takes around two weeks for the vaccine to become effective in the body, so an early start means better protection.
The CDC recommends vaccinating before the end of October, but don’t let that stop you from getting it later in the season if you are unable to do so earlier. A flu shot for your kids in November or December is still better than no flu shot at all.
Q: How many shots will my child need?
A: Children under 9 years old who have never had a flu shot will need two doses, scheduled four weeks apart. It’s a good idea to make your appointment for the first shot now so that your child is fully protected by the start of flu season.
If your child has received at least two doses of the flu vaccine in the past, one shot will be sufficient. Children over 9 getting their first flu vaccine will only need one dose as well.
Q: Can babies be vaccinated?
A: Yes. Babies older than 6 months old should get the flu vaccine.
Q: Will my child get a shot or a nasal spray?
A: Each year, the CDC makes recommendations for vaccines based on the types of flu strains common in that year. Some years, parents will have a choice of a shot or nasal spray, while in others, the CDC will only recommend one or the other.
Your Florida Hospital for Children physician will have the latest vaccines and information from the CDC at the time of your appointment.
Q: Are flu symptoms different for children than for adults?
A: They can be. Kids often experience nausea, vomiting or stomach pain along with the typical flu funk that adults are used to.
Symptoms to look for in your children include:
- High-grade fever with chills
- Extreme fatigue
- Body aches
- Dry cough
- Belly pain, nausea or vomiting
One clue that your child has caught the flu versus a common cold is how quickly the illness comes on. Sudden, severe onset of symptoms may indicate flu.
Q: How is the flu spread?
A: Flu is one of the most contagious viruses, and is easily spread in classrooms and on playgrounds. Simply coughing or sneezing can spread the flu, in addition to direct contact with infected mucus or saliva.
Q: What are some other ways I can help prevent my child from catching the flu?
A: The flu vaccine is very effective, but there are other steps you can take to lower your child’s risk of getting sick.
The most important thing to do is to make sure your child washes his or her hands frequently, especially before eating and after sneezing, coughing and blowing his or her nose. Teaching your child to cover his or her mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing will also help prevent the spread of these nasty germs.
Flu vaccines will be arriving soon, and now’s a great time to make an appointment for your child. Fill out the appointment form on the right side of this post to find a Florida Hospital primary care physician, call (407) 303-DOCS or click here to find the nearest Centra Care location.