By DR. IVOR HORN
This is only our son’s 3rd year getting the flu vaccine. Not because we were hesitant about him getting it, but until then, he was in the group for which the flu vaccine was not available. See, our son is allergic to nuts, dairy and eggs – and since the flu vaccine contains eggs, it risks a reaction.
Don’t worry, he’s fine! Yes, finding foods he can eat sometimes can be challenging, but he eats lots of great stuff. His dad has become a master at making baked goods without dairy or eggs. I’ll blog about that another time.
When our allergist said we could give him the vaccine in a controlled environment we jumped at the chance. But before then, we relied on lots of good handwashing and hygiene (for a boy – yeah right!) and the herd immunity from others who got their flu vaccine. Our son has asthma so his risk of complication, should he get the flu, were also greater. Before he went to preschool it was easier. We limited his exposure during the flu season and made sure our family got their flu vaccines, but when he headed to school, it got tough. The school nurse was great, not just because of my son, but she had a mindset about public health so she would remind parents about getting the flu vaccine in school newsletters and emails. As a pediatrician, in my practice I could actively talk to parents about the importance of giving their child the flu vaccine and dispel myths. But at my son’s school, I was a parent first and to push the subject would have been self-serving, so I just listened and hoped. I kept in touch with the school nurse about illnesses in the school. I watched my son closely.
Thankfully, now he can get the flu vaccine, but it requires an almost ½ day visit to the allergist. Still, avoiding the flu is worth it. So when I say it’s flu season, take note. Get your vaccine. Yes, I’m sincere and it’s personal.
But don’t just take my word. Here are a few facts about the flu.
- The flu vaccine does NOT give you the flu. The “flu shot” or the version given by injection with a needle is an inactivated vaccine. This means it is made with killed virus so that part that makes you sick is not active.
- You should get the flu vaccine every year. You may have heard that the components of the flu vaccine are the same as last year, but it is not sufficient if you got the vaccine last year because the effectiveness of the vaccine only last for one season.
- Flu is a serious illness. Several people die each year from complications of flu illness. Almost half of the children who died from complications of the flu last year were not vaccinated.
- Everyone can’t get the flu vaccine. Children under 6 months of age can’t get the flu vaccine so by getting the vaccine for you and your family, you are helping to keep them healthy. Getting your flu vaccine helps protect those most vulnerable to having flu complications.
What children are at greatest risk?
- Children younger than 6 months
- Children 6 months to their 5th birthday, and
- Children 6 months and older with chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and sickle cell anemia.
Be sure to get your vaccine as soon as it is available in your area.
- Children 6 months – 8 years who did not receive at least one dose of flu vaccine in the past should get 2 doses at least one month apart. If they have had a previous flu vaccine, they only need one dose.
- Healthy kids over the age of 2 can receive a nasal spray flu vaccine so they don’t even have to get a shot.
What are the signs of the flu? (from healthychildren.org)
- A sudden fever (usually greater than 101F or 38.3 C)
- Headache, body ache and fatigue
- Sore throat
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Some kids may have vomiting and diarrhea
Check with your child’s pediatrician to see what is right for your child and to answer your questions. Check these websites for more information:
And for information on how to get free or low-cost flu shots this season, check out Free and Low-Cost Flu Shots 2011 on Suddenly Frugal.
Ivor Horn is a mom, practicing pediatrician and researcher with several publications in medical journals. She has appeared on the Today show and Good Morning America Health discussing health topics such as childhood obesity, puberty and breastfeeding. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband of more than 20 years and their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @DrIvorHorn.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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Thanks for sharing. There are so many myths and concerns about the shot in our communities and I am glad we have information a mother and doctor.
We got ours just yesterday! HJ decided he would try the nasal inhaler version as opposed to the shot since he is adverse to shots. After he did it, he voted to take the shot next year. 🙂
Yay for HJ! The nasal spray makes it even easier! No needles!
I am a strong believer in vaccines, as long as a child is healthy enough to get them, as the alternative can be dangerous to the child and the people around the child. I know you are talking about the flu vaccine, but today there are many people not giving their children the MMR, which is probably why at the age of 50 I ended up getting the mumps (I worked in a school) and in March of 2010 my husband, who does have some major health conditions was one of those unfortunate people to get whooping cough before the shot was being recommended. He was extremely ill for close to six months, there was a delay in diagnosis, at the time his doctor had not seen whooping cough, now of course it is the latest buzz word. My entire family had to be vaccinated and truthfully I consider myself lucky never to have caught it from him. I want to say again, that vaccines not only protect your child, but they may protect someone who can’t take a vaccine or is beyond the age. I just got my shingles shot! That is something else I would like to avoid. This is a great article and very timely.
Your story is a great example of the importance of immunizations. We have been so successful with vaccine that people forget how serious illnesses like mumps and whooping cough are, especially for folks who are medically vulnerable like children, those with chronic conditions and the elderly. We have a community responsiblity.
Really? Did I read that right? “Several” people die each year from the flu virus? Is that of the U.S. population, or the world population?
I’m sorry but that just doesn’t seem like a big enough risk to inject my young child (or anyone in my family for that matter) with a mass-produced vaccine made of unclear and poorly-tested ingredients designed to make huge profits for Merck or some other conglomerate. No way. I choose to feed my family a diet of whole, unprocessed food with as few chemicals and food coloring as possible so they can build strong immune systems and fight off a flu virus the good old-fashioned, natural way.
And just so you know, I did immunize my child against MMR, whooping cough, etc. but on a later schedule than my allopathic doctor recommended.
I think too many people buy into mainstream fear mongering, are unwilling to question the status quo and would rather pop a pill or get an injection than take the time to be responsible for their health by feeding their bodies whole, nutritious food and avoid the crap found packaged and frozen in the center of a typical grocery store.
I disagree strongly with your point-of-view, no offense intended.
No offense taken at your decision to feed and vaccinate your child the way you choose, but I do take STRONG offense to the suggestion that anyone who CHOOSES to vaccinate their child is “buying” into “fear mongering,” is too dumb or lazy to “question” the medicines/vaccines and would “rather pop a pill or get an injection than take the time to be responsible” for their health and bodies. Every mother taking the time to read this post is RESPONSIBLE and SMART and MAKING CHOICES FOR HER CHILD. If you disagree with those choices for your own reasons, that’s your business. But please refrain from stomping onto my site and suggesting that anyone who doesn’t think like you or make choices like you is a lazy idiot who doesn’t care about her child. That’s SO not how we do things here on MyBrownBaby.
My 7 month old son received his flu shots (Part A & B). I was hesitant at first, but my doctor informed me that the vaccine was preservative free (free from harmful agents such as formaldehyde). I haven’t received a flu shot yet though. I have a question about the allergies. My husband and I don’t have any known allergies in our families to eggs or nuts, should we have our son tested for those allergies before giving him those foods? We’re both lactose intolerant and my son didn’t do well with milk-based formula, so we won’t give him much dairy.
Congratulations on your son receiving his flu vaccine. It is great that you could communicate your concerns with your pediatrician and be reassured by their advice. As for your question, we do not generally do routine testing for food allergies in children, unless there is a family history of severe allergies or clinical symptoms that would give you cause for concern. In our case, our son began having hives with certain foods when we started him on solids at 6 months after being exclusively breastfed. Our pediatrician did initial testing at his one year visit then it was off to the allergist. Seven months is young for testing and results can be inconclusive at that age, but a quick call to your pediatrician to go over the specifics of your child’s medical history and assess his risk for developing food allergies in the future should help you come up with a clear plan for next steps. Hope that helps.