Ask anyone whether they’ve had their flu shot and you will more than likely be met with one of two responses:
“I sure have!” or, “I got the flu vaccine one year and it gave me the flu … I’m never doing that again!”
If you are in the latter camp, you should know that you don’t need to worry about getting influenza from the flu vaccine because it is made with a dead or weakened form of the virus and can’t give you the flu (this is not true of the flu mist, which does contain a weakened form of the live virus). If you are in the latter camp and a parent of small children, you should actually consider it a requirement to get your entire family vaccinated prior to Thanksgiving.
Take a look at these 4 reasons you should make sure your entire family gets a flu shot this year:
1. Influenza (“the flu”) is more than cold symptoms with a fever
The flu is a viral infection that attacks the respiratory system: the nose, throat, and lungs. A common misconception is that influenza is the same as the stomach “flu” that causes diarrhea and vomiting, when in actuality it is a fast-acting virus that can result in aching muscles, chills and sweats, headache, sore throat, fever, cough, fatigue and weakness, and nasal congestion.
Most people who have the flu can treat themselves at home, but it is those at the higher risk that should be concerned about potential infection.
2. Children are among those at the highest risk for flu complications
If you have children under the age of 5 — and especially if you have children younger than 2 — you should make sure your entire family gets the flu vaccine. Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications that would have probably been lessoned had they had the flu vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, there are flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same three viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
3. The flu vaccine can only benefit your child
Some parents hold back from vaccinating their children out of concern that there is a link between thimerosal and autism. While all vaccines for children under the age of 6 are thimerosal-free, some flu vaccines do use it.
Thimerosal (ethyl mercury) is a widely used preservative in biologic and medical products. Since 2001, all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger are thimerosal-free, with the exception of some formulations of inactivated influenza vaccine. Numerous studies have since shown that there is no relationship between vaccines, either with or without thimerosal, and the development of autism or other neurologic problems in children. — immunize.org
Since that action, studies have shown that there is no link between thimerosal and autism, but you can actually request a thimerosal-free flu shot if you are still concerned.
4. You must protect infants by protecting yourself
Children under 6 months of age are too young to get the flu vaccine, so the best way to protect them is by making sure the entire family is vaccinated. These babies have fragile and underdeveloped immune systems, putting them among those at the highest risk for flu complications.
Some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine. Children in this age group who are getting vaccinated for the first time, as well as some who have been vaccinated previously, will need two doses. Your child’s health care provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.
The last thing you want to deal with is a sick child, let alone a seriously sick child. Stack some of the chips in your favor by making sure everyone gets the flu shot before the end of the month.
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