At Rockford Pediatrics, we encourage all families to get the flu vaccine every year. It helps keep kids and parents from getting the flu, which is much worse than having a regular cold and can make a person sick with high fevers for a week or more!
Babies younger than 6 months old can't get the vaccine. So, the best way to protect them is for their parents, other caregivers and older kids in the household to get immunized. This is important because infants are more at risk for needing to be hospitalized with serious complications from the flu.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is a respiratory virus that often causes illness for over a week. Flu symptoms include a sudden high fever – generally over 101°, chills, severe muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, cough, congestion and fatigue. Generally, people with the flu feel much more sick, tired and achy than someone with a common cold. It is important to remember that influenza is different than the “stomach flu” which is caused by different stomach viruses. Although some, especially children, can have some vomiting or loose stools with influenza.
People with influenza are most contagious during the first few days of illness. It can spread rapidly from person to person through inhaling respiratory droplets (ie. someone who sneezes near you) and touching contaminated surfaces. In kids this is especially true – think of a kid with a runny nose or who sneezes, who then touches a toy, then another kid plays with that toy and afterwards puts their fingers in their mouth!
How to Prevent Getting the Flu
The best way to prevent your children from getting the flu is to get the flu shot. It is also important to teach your children good hand washing skills from an early age. Call Rockford Pediatrics at 616-259-6100 to make your appointment!
Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
It is very important to protect individuals that are considered high-risk. Here are some examples:
- All kids 6 months through 2 years old (babies younger than 6 months are also considered high risk, but they cannot receive the flu vaccine)
- All women who are pregnant, are considering pregnancy, have recently given birth, or who are breastfeeding during flu season
- Anyone (adults, teens and kids) with a chronic medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes
- Anyone 65 years and older
- Anyone whose immune system is weakened from medications or illnesses (like HIV infection or cancer treatment)
- Caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group (children younger than 2 years old, especially those younger than 6 months, and those with high-risk conditions like heart disease or diabetes)
Who Shouldn’t Get the Flu Vaccine?
Certain things might prevent a person from getting the flu vaccine. Talk to your pediatrician if your child:
- Has ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine
- Has Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves)
- Has a severe, anaphylactic reaction to eggs
What are the Different Types of Flu Vaccine?
At Rockford Pediatrics, we use quadrivalent (protects against four strains of flu), preservative-free flu shots.
The nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is not recommended this season by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for kids or adults. Studies showed that the nasal vaccine did not prevent people from getting the flu between 2013 and 2016. Researchers aren't sure why recent versions of the nasal vaccine no longer work well, but currently pediatricians can no longer recommend the nasal spray option.
When Should Children and Parents get the Flu Vaccine?
Flu season typically runs from December to May. It is best to get a flu shot as early in the season as possible, as it will give the body a chance to build up immunity to the flu. However, getting the shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.
What are the Side Effects of the Flu Shot? Can I Get the Flu from Getting a Flu Vaccine?
The side effects of the flu shot are minimal. The most common side effects are pain, swelling or redness at the injection site or low-grade fevers (<5% of children). The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and cannot cause the flu, despite this commonly held belief. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine is typically administered in the fall/winter season when people are exposed to common colds and illnesses. It is very common for a person to be exposed to a cold around the same time they receive the flu shot. This scenario is safe, but explains why the flu shot gets a reputation for causing illness.
Is the Flu Shot Safe and Effective?
Yes, the flu shot has been proven safe and effective. Recent studies have shown that receiving a flu shot reduces the risk of a flu-like illness by between 40% and 60% during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. There are some years when the match is not perfect, however, it is believed that some protection is still offered.
Call Rockford Pediatrics at 616-259-6100 to schedule your flu shot today!