It’s here. Flu season. And it’s brought along its friends: coughing, sneezing, body aches and fever. Not only is it a literal pain to your body, it can also be a dangerous gateway for more serious conditions, especially for children.
“The most important way you can protect you and your child from getting the flu is by getting your annual flu vaccine,” said Anna Myers, M.D., Scott & White pediatrician.
Although the vaccine is not a perfect match to this season’s flu, getting the shot will help build up antibodies against similar strains. The vaccine is about 97 percent effective in preventing illness.
And because of last year’s H1N1 outbreak that reached pandemic proportions, this season’s flu vaccine includes the H1N1 strain in addition to several other strains.
“It [this season’s vaccine] is really no different than any other flu vaccine in past years,” she said. “They all contain multiple strains of flu but this year’s just includes the H1N1 strain.”
Dr. Myers said parents should not be afraid to have their children receive this new combination shot.
“It is safe and meets the medical standards for vaccines,” she said.
Most health departments and local pharmacies are currently offering the new combination vaccine, as well as your child’s primary care physician’s office, the doctor said.
If you or your children aren’t too thrilled about a shot, the FluMist intranasal vaccine is also widely available.
FluMist is sprayed into the nose and can prevent influenza in people ages 2 to 49.
However, you should not get an intranasal vaccine if you are allergic to eggs, gentamicin, gelatin or arginine, have ever had a life-threatening reaction to influenza vaccinations or are 2 through 17-years-old and take aspirin or medicines containing aspirin.
Another way to help stop the spread of germs and keep your child from getting sick is by teaching them healthy habits.
“Teach your child how to wash their hands effectively and how to cough into their elbow,” she said.
But if your child can’t avoid the germs and begins exhibiting flu-like symptoms, keep them home from school and watch their condition carefully.
“If your child has a prolonged illness due to the flu or is displaying symptoms like labored breathing or signs of dehydration, seek immediate medical attention,” Dr. Myers said.
People at Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- Last flu season, American Indians and Alaskan natives seemed to be at higher risk of flu complications
- People who have certain medical conditions relating to the lungs or immune system
- People who are morbidly obese
Information courtesy of http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm.