With COVID-19 still raging (at the time of this writing), and flu season coming up soon, kids are going to be exposed to viruses as they co-mingle with other children. Your best bet for avoiding influenza this season is to get the flu shot. At Kids Choice Pediatrics, we will receive our shipment of flu shots in early September. You can call our office at (972) 359-7600 and make an appointment.
The 2020 flu shot is more important than ever, experts say. Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics are often flooded with flu patients during winter months. This year, getting a flu shot can help prevent those visits — and thereby prevent the co-mingling of flu patients and COVID-19 patients, who can infect each other and spread their viruses to other ER patients.
Public health experts are concerned about people having both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. “We don’t know yet whether that could compound either illness, but why take the risk?” says Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. Flu and COVID-19 can share many (though not all) symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Loss of taste and smell, which can happen with COVID-19, does not occur with the flu.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly to young children, older adults and people with certain medical conditions. Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually against influenza. It takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, but you can benefit from the vaccine even if you don’t get it until after the flu season starts.
New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. After vaccination, your immune system produces antibodies that will protect you from the vaccine viruses. In general, though, antibody levels start to decline over time — another reason to get a flu shot every year.
The flu vaccine — whether given via a shot or a nasal spray — isn’t perfect. It’s designed toward the end of each flu season — February for the Northern Hemisphere and September for the Southern Hemisphere — based on the four most prevalent strains of the flu circulating at each time. The expectation of those designing the vaccine, often right, is that those will be the most common strains that people in each hemisphere will face in the following flu seasons.
With or without a flu shot, you can take steps to help protect yourself from the flu and other viruses. Good hygiene remains your primary defense against contagious illnesses.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands if soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
- Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, eat a nutritious diet and manage your stress.