do I REALLY need the flu shot?
By: Dr. Shalini Forbis
It is that time of year again! Flu vaccines. Do you get the flu vaccine for yourself or your family? I will always remember my first year in training to be a pediatrician. Somehow, I just did not make the time for myself to get the flu vaccine. I had a different illness every month of that year, starting in October and going until May! I decided at the end of the year that even preventing one of those illnesses would have been good. I now get the flu vaccine (sometimes the shot, sometimes the nose spray) every year! I don’t get sick as often as I did that year but it is still worth it to protect myself, my kids and husband, AND my patients!
Here is what you should know about the flu (influenza virus) and the flu vaccine:
Symptoms of flu:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Very tired
Sometimes children can also get vomiting and diarrhea along with the above.
Please be aware that this is different from a virus that has mainly vomiting and diarrhea without the above symptoms and is likely caused by a different virus (and you won’t be protected from this by getting the flu vaccine).
What are the complications of the flu?
(Sometimes, when a person gets the flu it will lead to other health problems)
- Ear infections
- Sinus infection
- Pneumonia (bacterial)
For people with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure, they can be sicker with the flu or have it worsen their chronic disease.
How is flu spread?
By droplets, like when someone sneezes or coughs. Either you take this into your nose or mouth or you touch something that has the droplet on it and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Most people should get the flu vaccine. If your child is between 6 months – 2 years of age, he/she will need to get the shot. The first year that a child gets the vaccine (if age 8 or under), they will need to get a second dose 4 weeks or more after the first dose.
Who can get the nasal spray vaccine?
If you (or your child) is between 2 years – 50 years of age, you can get the nasal spray.
However, there are some exceptions. You cannot get the nasal spray vaccine if you:
- Have asthma (with history of wheezing in past 12 months)
- Are a patient with immunosuppression (immune system problem)
- Are a child (<18 years) and on aspirin therapy (do not give aspirin to your child unless told by a doctor)
- Are pregnant
- Have a severe egg allergy
- Have a reaction to the flu vaccine
- If you have taken influenza medicine in past 48 hours
Who can NOT get either type of flu vaccine?
People who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome should NOT get either vaccine (shot or nose spray).
What about if you or your child has an egg allergy?
Some people with egg allergy can get the flu vaccine. Talk with your doctor about your allergy and your reaction to eggs!
Why should you get the flu vaccine for yourself and your family?
- It prevents missing days of work or school
- Can help protect you from a miserable illness and possible complications (pneumonia, etc.)
- For people with a chronic disease, it prevents them from getting very sick
- It also protects those around us from being exposed to the flu
*this is especially important to protect those who may not be able to get a flu shot (such as babies less than 6 months who may get very sick from flu).
p.s. My girls have received their vaccine and I will be getting mine ASAP!
By: Dr. Shalini Forbis
Dr. Forbis is a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s Hospital and a mother to two girls. As part of the award-winning “Dr. Mom Squad,” Dr. Forbis blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. Forbis.