The fall and winter seasons bring with them cooler days, the crunching of leaves beneath your feet, and the excitement of the holidays ahead. But every year, there is one sneaky season nestled within fall and winter that catches us by surprise – that’s right … flu season.
Unlike the first day of fall or winter, there is no date on the calendar marking the beginning of flu season. There are no travel promotions encouraging you to make the most of it, nor will we find ourselves wishing we could spend it with our closest friends and family members. So, what do we do?
The flu shot is the best line of defense against the flu. I recommend getting a flu shot before the end of October, although later is still better than not at all. It is also important to routinely wash your hands, eat healthy foods, and get regular sleep and exercise to help you and your family stay healthy this flu season.
You may be considering the nasal spray option over the shot. However, we consider the shot as the recommended option for children due to unknowns surrounding the effectiveness of the nasal spray option.
Although there are many misconceptions surrounding the flu shot, I can assure you getting a flu shot, including for those who are pregnant, is an easy, safe, and effective way to prevent flu complications.
Despite common misconceptions, it is not possible for the vaccine to give you the flu. While there may be common side effects, these are usually mild and go away on their own.
There is often some confusion between the flu and the common cold. Although flu and common cold symptoms can be similar, the flu typically comes on quicker, lasts longer, and has more intense symptoms of fever, body aches, and fatigue or weakness. Check with your health care provider promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at high risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
The bottom line – flu is a big deal. Many people, including previously healthy kids and adults, become sick each year. The 2017-2018 flu season had record numbers of hospitalizations and sadly the highest number of flu-related deaths in children (since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic), with 80% of those children not vaccinated and half previously healthy. Do it to protect yourself, as well as others you interact with every day. As a pediatrician, for babies under 6 months of age who are who are too young to receive the flu vaccine, I strongly recommend a cocoon strategy – try to vaccinate everyone who will spending time with the baby.
Receiving the flu shot can be a teaching moment between children and their parents. You can use this opportunity to discuss protecting others in our community. Show your child how we take care of ourselves and how to respect the health of those around us.
I encourage everyone to get vaccinated at their doctor’s office, but many other places offer the shot, such as clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and workplaces. The important thing is that you get the shot and get it early. Don’t wait, vaccinate!
To learn more about Allegro Pediatrics, or to schedule your child’s annual flu shot, click here.
Dr. James Chattra is a pediatrician in the Allegro Pediatrics Redmond Ridge office. He is the executive director of the North Pacific Pediatric Society, and has also served on the Vaccine Advisory Committee of the Washington Department of Health.