Along with pumpkins and spiced cider, skeleton costumes and jack-o-lanterns, October ushers in the first whispers of another phenomenon that we can all count on every year: Influenza season.
Although the first actual cases of influenza may not appear until January or February, the best time to protect yourself and your children against influenza infection this season is now.
By protection I don’t mean rubber gloves and a gas mask. The flu shot is modified each year to try to protect us against the strains of influenza that are anticipated to appear in the community.
A common misconception is that only elderly adults and really small children get very sick with influenza, right? School-aged children actually are at higher risk of needing medical care related to the complications of influenza than healthy adults. Children aged 5 – 18 are also the most likely “virus vectors” that pass the influenza bug from one another at school and then bring it home to family members and members of the community. So, by immunizing and protecting our school-aged germ magnets, we can protect ourselves and our family members as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Council on Immunization Practices recommends that all children ages 6 months through 18 years of age should receive the influenza vaccine. The influenza vaccine can be given as a killed virus in the injectable form or as a live virus in a nasal spray.
If your kids are like mine, they would jump at the chance to skip a shot for a nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot. The live virus influenza vaccine, however, is not for everyone. Children younger than 2 years are not approved to receive the intranasal vaccine. The intranasal vaccine is associated with more complications in children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. Children who are allergic to eggs should not receive the intranasal or injectable influenza vaccine.
Watch as Dr. Dennis Cunningham at Nationwide Children’s Hospital dispels common myths about flu vaccine on the attached video.
So put on your costumes! With a little planning ahead this season as well as good hand washing and proper hygiene, you won’t have to be tricked into enjoying the sweet treat of your child’s healthy smile.
Kristin Seaborg is a Wisconsin pediatrician who writes about her experiences and perspective as a pediatrician and a parent of three children on her blog, Common Sense Motherhood. To find out more about Dr. Seaborg, you can visit her at her website, www.kristinseaborg.com.