With flu season officially here, the time to get vaccinated against the virus is now, particularly for children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), millions of kids get sick with the flu each year, thousands of them are hospitalized, and for some, the flu can be fatal. Last year, 180 children died due to influenza, and roughly 80 percent of them were unvaccinated.
That’s why the flu vaccine is recommended for all children six months and older. It not only protects the child, but those around them, as well, especially individuals vulnerable to illness such as people with compromised immune systems, newborn babies, and the elderly.
But there is some confusion this year over whether children should receive the shot or the nasal spray.
“Although they are once again manufacturing the mist, it tends not to work as well,” explains Dr. Mary Brown, pediatrician at Tufts Children's Hospital. “In our practice we recommend kids receive the flu shot,” she says, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.
And while the vaccine is not 100% guaranteed to work, it is the best means of prevention.
“Kids are miserable when they have the flu. And on top of that, they miss school, and parents miss work. So if there is something that may offer protection from it, it’s worthwhile to get vaccinated.”
Flu season starts in October, and continues through May. Predicting which strain of the flu will be most prevalent is not an exact science.
“Last year was a bad flu season, and the vaccine was 40% effective nationwide. But the strains we saw in Massachusetts matched up with the strains the vaccine contained.”
Dr. Brown says the key to maximizing protection against the flu is to receive the vaccine asap.
“The vaccine can take 2-4 weeks before it is completely effective, so I recommend parents get their children vaccinated as soon as possible so they can build up immunity before we’re in the thick of flu season,” Dr. Brown says.