Muscle aching, body switching from fiery heat to shivering cold, headaches, dry cough, and nausea are just some of the effects of the “common flu virus”. Influenza (or flu) season is quickly approaching (October to May) and I reaks
anted to share a plea to get yourselves and your loved ones protected! Influenza wreaks havoc on the young and old and there are few things that we can do to help protect ourselves.
Methods of protection include simple steps such as washing your hands frequently, getting adequate sleep, eating well, and staying active. You can also hibernate for the winter. Anyone with me?! If you can’t find a cozy cave to occupy for the eight months when influenza is on the prowl, then the other method is the flu vaccine.
There are about 100 influenza centers in over 100 countries that conduct year-round surveillance of the influenza virus. Each year the vaccine is matched to the specific circulating viruses. The vaccine—in the most basic description—contains a killed virus, which cannot cause disease, but can help the immune system create antibodies against those specific viruses. After being exposed to the killed virus in the vaccine the body can defend itself against the actually live virus when it comes in contact with it.
The vaccine is amazingly safe! It is recommended that everyone ages 6 months and older should be vaccinated every year (because the vaccine is a killed virus, the body’s immunity wanes quicker requiring yearly injections to keep our body effective in its defense efforts). Mother’s who are pregnant should be vaccinated as well because their immunity will not only help to protect themselves, but also their soon-to-be born baby. The newborn will be protected by mom’s immunity to influenza until about 6 months of age. The only contraindications for getting the vaccine would be if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to a previous injection. Even those with egg allergies can safely get the vaccine.
Other than a 3-7 day illness that can leave you on the couch with tissues and ibuprofen by your side, the influenza virus can cause severe, even deadly, illnesses. Children (especially those under 6 months of age), people with chronic medical conditions (including asthma, cardiac conditions, diabetes, etc.), and the elderly are most susceptible to the worst symptoms. Even though these people are at a higher risk of serious complications it was found that about 43% of children hospitalized for influenza complications had no other underlying conditions!
The flu vaccine isn’t perfect (like all things in life). It has been shown to be 60% effective, therefore, there is a chance that a person can be infected even after receiving vaccine. However, the actual illness will be milder. When all of the preventions methods are used (influenza vaccine, hand washing, healthy diet and exercise and adequate sleep) the chance of getting the flu and spreading it to more vulnerable individuals is significantly decreased. Last year only 59.3% of children and 43.6% of adults were vaccinated. Let’s all work to improve this percentage to help protect our little, big fighters and ourselves!
Flu vaccine is the best way we have to protect children and being immunized every year significantly reduces the risk of a child being hospitalized due to flu.
-Benard Dreyer, MD, FAAP AAP president
Check out this great resource for more info and watch this quick, fun summary of why these <2 sec shots are an important way that YOU can help save lives, or at the very least, prevent a few days of misery.