By Patsy Stinchfield, infectious disease nurse practitioner and senior director of infection prevention and control
Fall is a busy time for many families, with sports and schoolwork in full swing, and the holidays fast approaching! With so much going on, it can be easy to forget that the flu season is just around the corner. To keep your busy family healthy, don’t forget to schedule your clinic appointments to get the family vaccinated against influenza.
Here are four things every parent should know about the flu shot:
The influenza vaccine is your best shot (no pun intended) at protecting your family from the flu during flu season. No parent wants their kids to experience the fever, cough, sore throat, congestion and aches that are associated with influenza. The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related clinician visits each year. For children, in particular, the vaccine can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza, according to a 2017 CDC study.
You should get your family vaccinated by the end of October. Don’t delay your family’s vaccinations, because it could mean missing the opportunity to protect against the flu before the season hits! It’s best to get the vaccine before the flu starts spreading, but unfortunately, we can’t predict when that may occur. Because it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect in the body, it’s best to be vaccinated before the end of October. If you’re unable to get a flu shot by the end of October, you should still be vaccinated as soon as possible – it’s never too late!
Everybody six months of age or older should get an annual flu shot. Vaccinations don’t just keep your family safe – getting a flu shot means you’re protecting everyone you come in contact with, including those who can’t be vaccinated.
Even if you were vaccinated last year, you still need a flu shot this year! Because flu viruses change constantly, experts review the flu vaccine every year and update it to be most effective against current flu strains.
Another common question we receive is “Should pregnant women get the flu shot?” And the answer is yes! Flu shots are safe for pregnant women and have long been recommended by the CDC. It not only protects them, but may also afford temporary influenza protection to their newborn since they are too young to be vaccinated.
Who can’t be vaccinated? Children less than six months of age are too young to be vaccinated. Additionally, people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine shouldn’t be vaccinated.
If you’re someone who CAN get vaccinated, it’s even more important to do so to help those who are unable to get the shot. While vaccinated people may still get the flu, the vaccine remains our best defense against being hospitalized with severe flu or dying from influenza.
The CDC has more guidance around who should and shouldn’t get a flu shot here. If you think you or your child shouldn’t get the vaccine because of allergies or age, make sure to consult with your provider before determining whether or not you or your child is a candidate for the vaccine.
For more information about the flu vaccine, visit the CDC’s website.