It’s nearly the middle of October already — time to roll up our sleeves or clear out our noses for a flu vaccine. This year there is not much different about influenza (it’s a dreadful disease caused by a common virus), the flu vaccine (as a shot or intranasal spray, it is extremely safe and extremely effective in preventing or minimizing influenza symptoms), or the process of getting immunized (call us!).
It couldn’t be easier to get a flu shot. In fact, flu shots are offered at so many places that you almost have to purposely avoid not getting one! Your pediatrician’s office should be the obvious location for your children to receive their flu vaccines. Some of our offices are happy to immunize parents as well. Adults can call their own doctors or go to their favorite pharmacy to get one. I always tell parents that it doesn’t matter where they get one for themselves, just get one! It’s the right thing to do for everyone’s benefit, not just your own.
If you are still on the fence about getting one, here is what I wrote on The PediaBlog at the beginning of last year’s flu season:
CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.
By everyone they mean every person. Simple isn’t it?
Influenza is a dreadful infection. People think of “the flu” as vomiting and diarrhea. That is not influenza. Think of influenza as the worst possible cold you can imagine: Lots of nasal congestion and frequent coughing, terrible sore throat, severe headache, high fever. People who vomit do so because they feel so bad to begin with. And it’s not just one or some of these symptoms. It’s usually ALL of these symptoms, simultaneously! The symptoms are severe and persistent — often lasting a full week before things begin to improve.
For children, this typically means two weeks of missing school (one week of being really sick, and another week to recover). And that is if there are no complications. Complications occur commonly and include ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia, and dehydration. That means a visit to the pediatrician or even the emergency room, often chest X-rays, and usually an antibiotic (or two).
Pediatricians see a lot of influenza every winter, and we see a lot of bad flu. Like ICU bad. Children die in the United States from influenza every year.
Now here is what I wrote at the end of the past flu season:
Perhaps you thought that the recently finished flu season was mild. You would be mistaken. From the CDC:
For the 2012–13 influenza season, 149 laboratory-confirmed, influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. These deaths were reported from 38 states. The states with the greatest numbers of deaths were Texas (18), New York (14), and Florida (eight). The deaths included 11 children aged <6 months, 20 aged 6–23 months, 20 aged 2–4 years, 52 aged 5–11 years, and 46 aged 12–17 years.
Influenza is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine. Children don’t need to die from this. Get your children immunized against it, and get yourself one, too. The life you save may be your own — or someone else’s.
More PediaBlog on influenza here.