Fever, chills and dripping noses are the last thing a parent wants to deal with when flu season comes around.
Through the years the flu shot has proven to keep my family flu-free.
And because the flu vaccination recommendations change each year, physicians are encouraging people to learn their options and to get vaccinated earlier this year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 people a year die from flu in the United States, and up to 200,000 are sick enough to be hospitalized. A lot depends on the strains circulating. During last year’s flu season, 160 children died from flu.
What is out of our control is that every year the flu will strike. On average the flu season begins at the end of the year and last as late as early March. The flu usually is at its peak in late January and early February.
What is in our control is that we can reduce the chance of getting influenza by 60 to 70 percent by getting vaccinated.
Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said if you are planning to get the vaccination it is best to receive it in the months of September or October. Since it takes about two weeks for a person’s body to respond to the vaccination people who want it should get vaccinated as soon as it’s available. The vaccination protects a person’s body for six to eight months.
This year some vaccines will protect against four strains of the flu — two A strains and two B strains, Rupp said.
“This should result in better protection against the B-strains because previously there was only one B strain included in the vaccine,” he said. “Next year we anticipate that all of the vaccine will be quadrivalent.”
A few of the vaccination options:
A nasal spray — sometimes easier for people who might fear getting an actual shot.
An egg-free vaccine — many of the flu vaccines are raised in chicken eggs and thus there may be minute levels of egg protein in the vaccine — for those with egg allergies.
A higher titer vaccine that may offer greater protection for the less robust immune systems.
And a vaccine that utilizes a very small needle that causes less discomfort.
Dr. Annie Zimmer, a pediatrician at Children’s Physicians, said there is no reason not to get a child vaccinated.
“Kids can handle the vaccine as well as the adults,” she said.
Some people experience low-grade fevers, aches or fatigue within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine. This is from the body mounting an immune response, which is what keeps you from getting the flu. This minor reaction doesn’t compare to the five-plus days of a flu infection someone would get if not vaccinated.
No one has ever been hospitalized because they got the vaccine, she said. “But people do get hospitalized every year from getting the flu.”
Check with your local physician to see when the flu vaccination is available at your clinic. Meanwhile, several local pharmacies accept walk-in appointment such as those listed below:
Anna Backhaus, 29, is a mother of three boys and student at University of Nebraska at Omaha, interning for momaha this fall.
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