While many of us are welcoming fall with open arms, the start of this season also means the start of another season: flu season. However, before the virus begins its annual spread across the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics is reminding parents to get children 6 months and older the flu vaccine — and to get it as soon as possible.
In a statement posted to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, Dr. Flor M. Munoz, a physician and member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, says, "[T]he flu virus is common — and unpredictable. It can cause serious complications even in healthy children." As such, children should be immunized to reduce the risk of being hospitalized.
Of course, hospitalizations are extreme — and rare. In 2017, approximately 60 people per 100,000 people found themselves in the hospital due to flu-based complications. However, 180 children died during the 2017 – 2018 flu season and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80 percent of them weren’t vaccinated. This makes vaccination critical.
"Staying healthy is the goal for all of us," Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician in Seattle and an AAP spokesperson, said in the same news release. "As a pediatrician and mom, I see too often how quickly the flu spreads. Unfortunately, you can spread influenza without realizing it because some infected people begin to spread the virus a day or two before they have symptoms. Get the shot. It just makes sense."
That said, if your child refuses to sit for the shot and/or if your doctor's office runs out, there are other options: a nasal spray is also available. However, since the spray was not very effective against the 2013 – 2014 or 2015 – 2016 strains, it has not been recommended for the last two years. But the AAP and CDC do support the use of the nasal spray vaccine — or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) — for the 2018 – 2019 season, as the aim is adequate vaccination coverage and optimal flu protection.
Either way, protections from the flu are relatively simple to get (most pharmacies offer them without an appointment) and could make a big difference to your family's health this year.