Cold and flu season is right around the corner! Now is the perfect time to arm yourself and your children against influenza. While it’s important to take general health precautions like washing your hands, not touching your face, and steering clear of sick people, often these measures are not enough. A flu vaccine adds an important layer of protection against this miserable and sometimes dangerous illness.
We never know exactly when the first flu virus will arrive, but it usually hits in late fall or early winter and circulates for several months. We vaccinate in late summer or early fall to allow at least 2 weeks for the body’s immune system to respond to the vaccine. Children under the age of 8 who are new to the flu vaccine actually need two doses given a month apart. Historically, kids have had about 25% immunity after the first vaccine and closer to 75% after the booster dose.
Isn’t Some Protection Better than None?
No vaccine offers 100% immunity from the flu, but it is better than having no protection at all. Infants under 6 months are too young for the vaccine, so they depend on the people around them to get vaccinated to limit their exposure to the virus. Like the elderly and chronically ill, children 6 months to 2 years are at high risk of complications if they catch the flu. Babies suffer more ear infections, pneumonia and respiratory failure than the rest of the population.
Some people, like those with egg allergies, cannot get the flu vaccine, and not every vaccine is right for every age. Talk to your doctor or nurse about which vaccine is best for you. The flu vaccine does not cause the flu! The injection can cause some pain at the injection site. Any vaccine can cause some fever, but this is not dangerous.
Remember, a person with influenza is contagious for a full day before his symptoms even start. A flu vaccine can help protect you from a friendly visitor who doesn’t even know he is ill, and it can help keep you from unwittingly infecting someone very vulnerable, like an elderly shopper at your grocery store or a new baby at your church. Getting vaccinated isn’t just something to do for yourself – it’s a responsible way to protect your children and community, too.
Dr. Suzanne Condron is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center whose clinical interests include obesity, nutrition, allergies, asthma, childhood development, literacy, infectious diseases and preventive medicine.