Andi Shane, MD, MPH, System Medical Director, Infectious Diseases at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is here to respond to common flu and flu shot questions, so that you’re empowered to make decisions to keep your kids and family healthy during the 2019-2020 cold and flu season.
1. Isn’t the flu just a bad cold?
No, it’s more than that. Influenza (flu) is a serious virus that results in hospital stays for more than half a million people every year. It can be especially severe for babies and children with chronic medical conditions. It’s more than just a bad cold, because flu infections can lead to more serious infections, like pneumonia as well as other complications and even death.
2. Does everyone need a flu vaccine?
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that all children 6 months and older need a flu vaccine. Get your kid a flu shot as soon as they become available, which is usually by the end of September. Every member of your family should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the virus.
3. Do you need to get a flu shot every year?
Yes. There are many different strains of the influenza virus. Every year, experts work to predict the strains that will be in the community that year. Because these flu virus strains change year to year, it is important to get the best protection each year with an updated flu vaccine.
4. Does the flu vaccine give you the flu or makes you sick?
No. A flu shot does not cause the flu or any other infection. It can take up to two weeks for a flu vaccine to take effect in the body. Sometimes, when people get a flu shot later in the season or come into contact with a flu virus before they are fully immunized, they may have flu-like symptoms. But it wasn’t a flu shot that made them ill. We recommend getting a flu vaccine as soon as they become available to lessen the chance of this happening.
5. Does the flu shot cause allergic reactions?
No. An allergic reaction to the flu vaccine is incredibly rare. In the past, having an egg allergy used to be a reason not to get a flu shot. This is no longer true. Children with almost all egg allergies can receive a flu vaccine without concern. Check with your child’s pediatrician or allergist if you have questions about your child’s allergy.
6. Can pregnant and nursing mothers get a flu shot?
Yes. Doctors recommend that all pregnant women get a flu shot. When babies are born, especially during flu season, to mothers who received a flu vaccine, they are less likely to get a flu infection. This is incredibly important since infants are a vulnerable population that can’t be vaccinated until they’re 6 months old.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine while pregnant, it’s important to have all caregivers, friends and family members who will come into contact with you and your infant be vaccinated as well. This practice, called cocooning is a way to help protect a vulnerable new baby from infectious diseases before she is old enough to be vaccinated.
Breastfeeding provides healthy protecting substances to children and flu immunized women can help to protect both themselves and their infants by getting a flu shot.
7. Once flu season has started, is it ever too late to get a flu shot?
No. The CDC recommends that everyone receive a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, if you forgot to get you child vaccinated it’s truly never too late to do so. A flu shot still has many protective benefits, like preventing infection and lessening symptoms, even if it’s given later in the season.
8. Is the flu shot better for kids than FluMist?
No matter what method you chose, be sure to get your child protected through a flu vaccine. The nasal spray flu immunization is an option for eligible children and adults.
9. Can you spread the flu if you don’t have a fever?
The flu is a contagious virus. When children are infected with the flu, they may infect others days before their first symptoms are present. During flu season everyone is at risk of unknowingly spreading the infection. That’s why getting a flu vaccine is so important: You don’t know is people you’re regularly in contact with have been vaccinated.
Now that you’re up-to-date on flu facts, learn more about flu vaccines and how they keep kids healthy.