Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Roll up Your Sleeves. It's that Time of Year Again.

It's that time of year again. The packages have arrived, they've been unpacked and the doctors, nurses and staff at pediatric doctors' offices across town are readying themselves for the flu clinics. I know, I know, it was just Labor Day. Temperatures are still over 100. How can it be time for the flu shot already?

Why get the flu shot now? Isn't flu season in the winter?
It takes about two weeks after receiving the shot for your body to produce antibodies to the virus. Getting the influenza vaccine now provides time for your body to produce the antibodies needed to protect you before the start of the flu season. Flu season may start as early as October. Tragically, we have already had one case of influenza that has claimed a child in Arizona.

Cold, flu what's the difference?
Colds and influenza are both caused by viruses and have some similar symptoms. They're both illnesses of the respiratory system, but influenza tends to be much more severe, having other health complications and can even be fatal. Fever, fatigue, dry cough tend to be more typical and extreme with influenza whereas a runny nose is symptomatic of a cold.

I've had the flu shot before and still got the flu! Why bother?
The seasonal flu shot is designed to protect against the three main groups of flu strains that are most prevalent that particular year. Across the globe, scientists track what strains are particularly virulent, and based on that information each country decides which components to include in the seasonal flu shot. While the flu shot will help to protect you from the main flu strains any particular year, if you are exposed to a different variety you may develop that variety. Remember you may well have been saved from another bout of a different variety if you were vaccinated.

I never get sick with the flu, nor do my kids why should I bother?
Even healthy people can spread influenza. The people within your community who are unable to receive the vaccination are often the very ones who will suffer the most by exposure to the flu, children under 6 months or those with compromised immune systems. As influenza morphs each year you are not fighting the same viruses each year. This year might be the year that you're exposed to an influenza strain that you're unable to fight off. Why take the chance?

Okay, okay. You've convinced me. Should everyone get a flu shot? Where would I get one?
Everyone over 6 months old* should get a flu vaccination every year. If you have a fever the day you may have to delay getting the shot until another day, or if you have a severe egg allergy you may not be able to have the vaccination. Check with your doctor. Don't have a doctor? Find one here.

I think my child has the flu. When do I need to take them to the Emergency Room?
The Centers for Disease Control offers the following emergency warning signs for the flu.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough 
*We'll be following up shortly with a post about how to protect infants under six months of age. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Arizona Department of Health Services - Infectious Disease and Epidemology Program

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