You’ve likely suffered from the flu at least once in your life. It isn’t fun, is it? Maybe you’re a new parent and you’re worried about your child getting the flu. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place. Many parents have doubts about the flu shot, but we’ve come up with 10 great reasons why you should vaccinate your kids. Before we get into those reasons, though, let’s have a look at what the flu really is and what kind of impact it can have on your child.
What is the flu?
The flu is an illness caused by the influenza virus. There are two variants of influenza: A and B. There are two large types of glycoproteins on the outside of each influenza particle: hemagglutinin (which helps the virus bind to the target) and neuraminidase (which helps the release of the virus from infected cells). There are 16 H subtypes and nine N subtypes. They are what is responsible for the H and N distinction. For example, H1N1 is composed of the H1 and N1 subtypes. As you can imagine, there are many different possible combinations, thus many different strains of the flu virus. This is important when it comes to developing a flu vaccine, as you’ll find out more about below.
The flu attacks the respiratory system (your nose, throat, and lungs), causing a runny nose, sore throat, cough, high temperature, headache, and gastro-intestinal symptoms.
The flu is especially dangerous for children, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems. In these groups of individuals, severe complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration, may occur due to the flu.
How is the flu spread?
The flu is very contagious, which is why it’s so important to protect yourself and your family. It can be spread through contact with respiratory droplets. It can be spread by direct contact with an infected individual or by touching something with the viral particles on it (such as a phone or doorknob). Flu season in America lasts from October to May.
What is the flu vaccine?
Vaccines have been around since the 1790s. The world’s first vaccine, introduced by Edward Jenner, was for smallpox. Thankfully, smallpox has been eradicated because of the vaccination. In 1945, the vaccine for influenza was developed and has since saved many lives. Today, there are both trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines, which are made to protect against three or four flu viruses, respectively.
Here are 10 reasons you should vaccinate your children this flu season:
1) It won’t give them the flu
One of the most common excuses for not getting the flu shot is that it causes the flu. It’s important to know that this is a myth! The flu shot cannot cause the flu because it is made either with an inactive (or weakened) virus which cannot transmit the infection, or no virus at all. Have you ever noticed that you did get sick after getting the flu shot? Perhaps this is what caused you to make an (incorrect) association between the two. If this did occur to you or someone you know, it is likely because they caught the virus before getting the vaccine (which takes a week or two to work).
2) The flu can make them very sick
The flu is especially dangerous for children aged five and younger, as well as those with chronic disorders. The flu is more than just a cold; it can cause serious illness in your children. Some of the more severe symptoms include: pneumonia, difficulty breathing, high fevers, and vomiting. Each year, thousands of children require hospitalization due to influenza complications and in some cases, it can be fatal. The flu shot is the best way to protect your child.
3) Children can spread the flu easily
Children touch everything! They touch their toys, their iPads, doorknobs, and anything else you can imagine. In school, children often share their pencils and crayons with each other, too. Hard, plastic materials (such as those that toys and technological devices are made from) are breeding grounds for viruses. And, let’s face it — children don’t wash their hands as often as they should. What does this all mean? Children can easily spread and catch the influenza virus! Therefore, the best decision you can make during flu season is to have your child vaccinated. It won’t just protect them, but all their classmates and friends, as well.
4) The flu shot won’t cause autism
Another reason that people may steer clear of giving their child the flu shot is the myth that vaccines cause autism. This myth was born after a poorly conducted study by Andrew Wakefield gained attention and was supported by celebrities. The study has been discredited due to ethical violations, errors, and conflicts of interests. Plus, Wakefield’s license to practice medicine was revoked. So, there is simply no reason at all to believe this study. Other studies, since this controversial one, have found no such connection between autism and the flu shot.
5) The flu shot will decrease their amount of missed classes
When we think of all the things we want for our children, good health, happiness, and education are usually at the top of the list. But, if your child gets the flu, they take a triple hit: their health suffers, they’ll be miserable, and they’ll likely have to stay home from school. This can be inconvenient, as you’ll need to find a babysitter or stay at home to take care of them. But, all of this is preventable. As we know, the flu shot is effective in protecting children from the influenza virus. Therefore, if your child gets the shot, it will reduce their chances of having missed days from school.
6) The flu shot is affordable and convenient
The flu shot is totally affordable and is available practically on every corner. Pharmacies, clinics, major retailers (such as Wal-Mart), and your doctor’s office all offer the flu shot at an affordable price (usually no more than $30). And most places accept insurance, which means you’ll pay little to nothing. In some areas and at some health clinics, the flu shot is administered free of charge. So, there really is no whining that it’ll cost you anything or be an inconvenience! Truth be told, it has never been easier to get the flu shot than it is today.
7) The flu virus changes every year
So, maybe your child had the flu shot one time, but refused to take it after that. You might think that they’re still protected, but you’d be wrong. Every flu season, there are different strains of flu viruses circulating and influenza can evolve, so your immune system does not recognize it (and cannot fight it off). Furthermore, the immune system’s ability to fight a particular strain of influenza decreases over time. This is why it is important to get an updated vaccine each year. Vaccine experts make educated guesses as to which strains of influenza are most likely to be prominent each season and build the vaccine to protect against those ones.
8) The flu vaccine is painless
No child likes getting pricked by a needle. But, the flu shot is relatively painless. The prick is literally a second and the pain typically subsides within a few minutes. In some cases, there may be soreness or swelling at the site of the needle, but this goes away within one or two days. Even if your kid refuses to get a needle, there’s still a way for them to get protected — the nasal spray. Studies have shown that is it as effective as the flu shot. To help your child out, you can hold them while they get the shot, tell them to take deep breaths or take their attention away from the needle.
9) The flu vaccine is effective
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. The vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu by 50% to 60% for the overall population. It also reduces children’s risk of hospitalization due to flu complications by 74%. Though it’s not 100% effective against the flu, there’s definitely no harm in reducing your (or your child’s) risk of getting the flu.
10) The flu vaccine is safe
As previously mentioned, the flu shot does not cause autism and severe reactions to the vaccine are rare. The ingredients in the vaccine have been tested and are checked regularly to ensure safety. Some fear the flu vaccine because they are typically made using eggs. But, even for those with an egg allergy, the flu vaccine is still recommended (though, in some cases, only in a medical setting). For children with severe egg allergies, there is a completely egg-free flu vaccine available (the recombinant one).