Whether you “believe” in flu vaccinations or not, as long as you are informed to the risks and benefits of using vaccines, as an adult, that is totally your choice to not get them. However, when it comes to your children, really learn the risks of not vaccinating your children…the flu is more serious than most people think, it can be devastating to a child, and you cannot keep them in a bubble of protection forever. You can do whatever you want for yourself, but arm your child with the protection their immune system needs to ward off the flu this season.
Last winter, 171 children died of the flu. That’s a scary number: it seems so wrong that any kids (never mind almost 200) died from the flu in the United States where we have access to vaccinations and we are at the forefront of modern medicine. If getting a quick shot can prevent all that devastation, why not get it? Since the flu season is technically October to February, you can get vaccinated at any time, but you don’t want to be the mom waiting to get her kids vaccinated, there are no vaccines left, and you already bribed them with lollipops.
How Do the Vaccinations Work?
This year all of the vaccinations that are available cover up to either three or four strains of influenza that research indicates will be most virulent this season (the scientists are really doing their best to get better at this!) You can usually be vaccinated two different ways, either by nasal spray or through an actual injection. Two weeks after vaccination, your body starts to create antibodies against the flu that will help prevent you from getting infected, and if you do, it will be a very mild form, like a cold.
The injection is an inactivated form of the virus, and, no need to worry, being injected with the inactivated strains of the flu, means that you aren’t actually infected with the live virus so you won’t get the flu from the vaccine. (People claim they get the flu from the shot, but it is just placebo effect, sorry to be the bearer of that news!) After the injection, there may be some redness at the site, soreness, and low fever that can last 1-2 days…and that’s it!
The nasal-spray vaccine is made with living, but weakened, flu virus that does cause an immune response, but you don’t get as sick as you would with the actual flu. It is not suggested for pregnant women and if you have a child with asthma, you may want to opt for the injection due to possible respiratory reaction from the spray. After the nasal-spray vaccine, you can have some side effects (for adults) such as: runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough. For children, the side effects can be: runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle ache, and fever that last just a few days. This gives your immune system a real challenge because you are actually getting the virus, but you only have to feel a little unwell for a few days. Which is still better than getting the true flu!
Who should get vaccinated?
Getting vaccinated is not only to protect your own child but also to prevent them from infecting those around them (could you imagine if your child was the epicenter of a flu epidemic? Yikes!) And if that isn’t reason enough, it’s less days of missed school/work for sick days and more time for actual fun vacation days (who wants to spend their (could be) vacation time being sick or taking care of a really sick kid?) If you ask me, and the CDC, basically everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated, seriously, check out the lists below!
The “high risk” list for definite vaccination:
-Pregnant women (injection only)
-Children younger than 5 years old (especially those in pre-school activities, daycare, etc.)
-Anyone ≥ 50-years-old
-Anyone with chronic medical conditions
-People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities (if we visit family members….grandparents…)
-People who live with or care for those at high risk (healthcare workers, family members of those at high risk, and family and caregivers* for those less than 6 months old.)
*Obviously we cannot force our babysitters to get the flu shot, but we can ask them to skip babysitting if they aren’t feeling well, and ask about daycare workers!
Who can get a pass?
-Anyone with an allergy to chicken eggs (egg white is the protein in the vaccination)
-Anyone who has had a severe reaction in the past (you don’t have to go through that again!)
-If you have had Guillian-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of a flu vaccine (you’d know if you have had it….it is a pretty severe auto-immune response)
-Children under 6 months of age (their immune systems are too immature to respond appropriately)
-If you actively have a fever (wait until you are better!)
The 1-2 days of side effects of the vaccination versus having your child be one of the thousands that are seriously ill with flu, or the 100+ that die from the flu annually, seems like a no-brainer to me. There is only so much you can do to protect your child when they are at school or interact with others, and you want to make sure that they are set up for success, and especially if they have any other medical issues, give them the immunity to fight off the flu, they will thank you for it! If you have concerns or don’t believe that vaccinating is the way to go, I really urge you to talk to your healthcare provider about what is best for you and your children, it’s worth it!
Related post: Vaccinations: It’s Not Your Choice