It’s that time of year again when temperatures are dropping and parents everywhere are bundling up their kids in coats and hats to protect them from seasonal illnesses. But about half of Americans don’t take advantage of the best way to prevent the flu: the flu vaccine. Our pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center know that parents have a lot of questions about the flu vaccine, so we’re answering some of the most common ones we hear from our patients’ parents.
Why is the flu vaccine so important for kids?
As beneficial as the flu vaccine is for everyone, it’s especially crucial for kids. Children are more likely to contract the flu because they tend to touch everything in their surroundings and then put their hands in or near their mouth and eyes. The risk is even higher for school-aged kids because they’re around so many other children in a small area.
To protect your kids from the flu and its potentially serious complications, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids get the vaccine, but especially kids between 6 months and 5 years of age. Babies under 6 months old actually have a higher risk for flu complications, but they’re not able to receive the vaccine, so it’s particularly important for your family and all of your child’s caregivers to get the vaccine if you have a baby or other high-risk individual at home.
Can my child get the flu from the vaccine?
This is a very common myth. The flu vaccine contains a deactivated (dead) form of the virus so the body can learn how to defend itself against the live virus. The vaccine will not cause your child to get the flu. Some side effects of the vaccine can mimic flu symptoms in kids, and some people mistake this for a mild flu.
Which type of flu vaccine should my child get?
The flu vaccine comes in two forms: trivalent (containing three strains of the virus) and quadrivalent (containing four strains of the virus). At Children’s Wellness Center, we always strive to offer our patients the most effective and safest vaccines on the market, so we only stock the quadrivalent vaccine, and our flu vaccine is preservative-free as well. The most important factor is just to get the immunization for your child.
In some past years, the flu vaccine has also had two options for administering: an injection or a nasal spray. This year, the only effective and approved flu vaccine is an injection. If you are offered a nasal spray flu vaccine, do not accept it.
When should my kids get the flu vaccine?
The flu virus changes each year, so kids need to get a new flu vaccine each year. The year’s vaccine is usually available in August or September, and we have already had the flu vaccine for the 2017-2018 season since September. We have plenty of supply for both patients and parents alike, so you should schedule a flu vaccine appointment at your earliest availability. For your convenience, we offer flu vaccine clinics most days of the week to make it easy and quick for families to come into the office for a nurse to administer the vaccine.
Does the flu vaccine guarantee that my child won’t get the flu?
As much as we would all love a 100% guarantee, this just doesn’t exist in medicine. Flu vaccines are about 60% effective. We do know, however, that vaccinated people who do get the flu tend to have a much milder case and are much less likely to end up with severe complications, like pneumonia. After all, the largest concern about the flu is that you never know which kids will have severe complications, so minimizing that risk is certainly worth the effort.
If my kids aren’t in a high-risk category, should we pass up the vaccine to conserve the supply for high-risk people?
Children who are at a heightened risk for serious flu complications include:
- Kids under 5 years of age
- Kids with certain chronic pediatric medical conditions (for example, a history of wheezing)
- Children of American Indian/Alaskan Native heritage
If you and your kids don’t belong to one of these categories, you should still get the vaccine. There is no shortage of the flu vaccine this year, so there’s no need to put your child’s health at risk to conserve the supply for high-risk kids.
No parent wants to see their child get sick, and flu vaccines are among the most effective ways to keep your kids healthy. At Children’s Wellness Center, we’re here to help with flu vaccines, preventative guidance, and more throughout this flu season. To keep up with our future blogs and health tips for kids this season, be sure to follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.