The Importance of Getting Your Child's Flu Shot

The prevalence of flu varies from year to year, accounting for about 10 million to almost 50 million illnesses each season, representing from 5-20% of the American population. In most cases, influenza is medically considered a mild illness, lasting about two weeks and resolving on its own. You may argue the definition of “mild” when you actively have the flu, but even without treatment, you’ll get better.

Some segments of the population, however, are more at risk of developing complications from their bouts of the flu. Pregnant women, older people, and those with compromised immune systems represent some of those who are more susceptible to serious effects. Children can also bear greater risk if they catch the flu under the age of five. It’s potentially even more dangerous if they have the flu before they reach two years old.

Effects of the flu on children

During the 2017-2018 flu season, a record 180 children died of the flu and its complications, at odds with the generally mild nature of the condition. In certain circumstances, influenza can be life-threatening and even fatal.

Part of the danger to children comes from the fact that their bodies and defense systems are still developing. An immature immune system, for example, can be completely overwhelmed by the flu virus, when even a few years later, it would be sufficiently strong to combat the infection.

Their young bodies may not have the physical resources needed to withstand the attack on their bodies, which can include fever, respiratory effects, aches, chills, and more. Their vulnerabilities are similar to seniors, who may be losing physical resources instead.

The importance of the flu shot

With the disinformation about immunizations floating around in popular culture, many parents base their decisions on flu shots on inaccurate and even false facts. Perhaps the biggest myth is that the components of the flu virus in a flu immunization can cause flu.

Your child can’t catch the flu from a flu shot. Some people, regardless of age, may feel sore at the injection site, and fewer still may develop mild fever or aches, but these are signs that the vaccine is stimulating the immune system properly and making the body ready against active viruses.

Flu viruses mutate frequently. There’s also more than one type of virus, so predicting which strains of flu to protect against isn’t always easy, and having a flu shot won’t prevent the infection in all cases. However, it is up to 60% effective at protecting your child, as well as reducing the prevalence of the disease in your community.

Children as young as six months can safely receive the flu shot. Even at that age, their bodies can process the vaccine and develop protection against active forms of the virus, yet without risking the resource drains that an active virus could cause.

If you’re unsure if the flu shot is right for your child, talk to your primary physician, or contact Bethel Medical Associates. As a primary care internal medicine practice, their doctors are pediatric specialists, able to inform and advise about all aspects of your child’s health. With flu season in swing, it’s time to call the office or book an appointment online. The flu shot is safe, effective, and the right choice for your child and everyone else in your family.  

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