To Flu Shot or Not to Flu Shot
Quote of the Week
“The idea that you don’t need the vaccine because you ‘never get the flu’ makes about as much sense as never wearing a seatbelt because you’ve never been in a car accident.”
~ NBC News
IN THE NEWS
Unless you’ve been on a social media strike, you’ve probably been reading a lot about the flu shot and everyone being very vocal about making sure you get it. They’ve used everything from, “protect yourselves as 80,000 people died last year” to, “Do you civic duty and protect those around you especially the elderly and children.”
While some of these articles are helpful and the sources are credible I wanted to take a more in depth look.
Please note, I am not a medical professional and I’m not advising whether to get or not to get the flu shot. I’m merely aggregating information from around the web that helped me make an informed decision.
INFLUENZA AND THE VACCINE
Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. Symptoms can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms include: high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, sneezing, and feeling tired. These symptoms typically begin two days after exposure to the virus and most last less than a week. The cough, however, may last for more than two weeks. In children, there may be diarrhea and vomiting, but these are not common in adults.
Influenza vaccines, also known as flu shots or flu jabs, are vaccines that protect against infection by Influenza viruses.
A new version of the vaccine is developed twice a year, as the Influenza virus rapidly changes. While their effectiveness varies from year to year, most provide modest to high protection against influenza.
The effectiveness of the flu shot varies each year, because there are multiple strains of the flu that spread each season, according to the FDA. Each vaccine is formulated to target three or four of the “most likely to circulate” strains each year, but figuring out which strains to include in the seasonal flu shot is somewhat of an educated guessing game.
Apparently this year’s flu shot is looking promising so far based on current flu patterns in the Southern hemisphere.
SHOULD BABY AND I GET THE FLU SHOT?
Last year the vaccine was not very effective because the virus mutated and the vaccine that was set in March become obsolete come September. However, for whoever received the vaccine last year, got a dose of antibodies to help against any flu. So if you did get the flu shot last year not all was lost.
It definitely has made people, especially parents weary about giving their little ones the shot this year. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. They even say children under 8 who are getting the vaccine for the first time should get it twice, spaced four weeks apart.
Let’s look at the pros and cons.
[Fun fact - You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. The viruses in the shot are inactive.](https://www.walgreens.com/topic/scheduler/influenza-vaccine_1.jsp)
Even though last years flu vaccine was only 36% effective and 80k people died (one of the most severe flu seasons in a decade), for those who had the shot and still got the flu, it was less severe and potentially kept them from winding up in the hospital. It may not always prevent illness, but may reduce symptoms and prevent hospitalization.
CONS - POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS:
- Soreness, redness/swelling
- Muscle aches
Per the CDC they say with any injection you should look for these more serious side effects:
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- Swelling around they eyes or lips
- A fast heart beat or dizziness
Other things to note:
- The shot includes low levels of mercury - about the same as a single 3 ounce can of tuna fish. Flu vaccines in multi-dose vials contain thimerosal to safeguard against contamination of the vial. Most single-dose vials and pre-filled syringes of flu shot and the nasal spray flu vaccine do not contain a preservative because they are intended to be used once.
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is can occur as a result of the flu shot. This condition causes the immune system to attack the nerves, causing tingling and weakness in extremities, which can later develop into full-blown paralyzation.
- If you or baby have an egg allergy then make sure you talk with your doctor about how to safely receive the vaccine.
My kids usually respond fine to getting vaccines. They’re absolute troopers, but they are stay at home kids. During the winter we pick our outings carefully and are cognizant about washing their hands AND ours. They’re not out in group settings as much as we are. They’re also pretty good eaters (as far as toddlers go). And food is a great way to build immunity. Foods with vitamin D and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. As well as lean and clean protein and healthy anti-inflammatory fats from fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils like olive, grape seed, and coconut. My kids get all of these through yogurt, milk, pouches, meat, nuts, and when I use oil I use coconut oils. They’re better eaters than me!
So for the past 3ish years our happy medium was we get flu shots and asked anyone coming to visit for extended trips to do the same. We saved our children the possible pain and side effects since they’re still pretty little. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep them away from getting it given they’re older and out in the world A LOT more.
If our kids were in school, I think we would have taken a different approach.
No matter what you decide - get it or not get it - be sure to take any and all safety precautions by carrying hand sanitizer or washing you and your kids hands before you all enter AND exit any area with a ton of kids or people. And eating vitamin rich foods and taking daily vitamins doesn’t hurt either.
WHERE TO GET A FLU SHOT
Chances are your healthcare provider has already asked you or will ask you at your child’s next checkup if you’d like to give them a flu shot. It’s always your choice. Ask about possible side effects given babies age, allergies, etc. before making any decisions.
You’ll need to check your local Pharmacy. Some of them now administer shots for children. It’s becoming more prevalent. Check your pharmacies website. Right now, our nearest Pharmacy only does 7 years and older. If we do decide to get them the flu shot this year we’ll probably have it at their three year checkup.
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