F is for Flu Vaccine
The Flu Season has already begun are you and your little ones prepared? I am sure that you are all seeing and hearing the commercials to come and get “The Flu Shot.” They are giving them at your local pharmacy, at the health department, and in your primary care physician’s office. Before you make your decision about receiving this vaccine, I’m sure you have several questions.
What exactly is this “Flu Shot?”
There are two types of influenza vaccines: a live and non live. The live means an actual viral particle is given to the patient, this vaccine is popular because is non injectable and given through a nasal spray. The live vaccine should never be given to children under age 2 years, children who have asthma or recent history of wheezing or anybody who is immunocompromised. The non live is injectable but it contains the inactivated virus as the main component of the vaccine. There are also a preservative free or with preservative version of the vaccine. In this case the preservative is thimerosol which contains small traces of mercury. I never like to give my children or my patients anything with mercury preservative if I can prevent it. Ask your provider which version they have so you can make the best decision for you and your child(ren).
Why is there a new vaccine every year?
There are different influenza strands and every year the virus mutates or changes. Therefore a new vaccine is made using a combination of strands from the most recent outbreaks worldwide. Once the vaccine is given to a patient it will start working in the immune system at day three of vaccination, but it is not until after day 7 that you will have full immunity. If during that period you are exposed you will still get the flu.
Who is more susceptible to the flu?
I recommend the flu vaccine every year for all children who are six months and up especially for little ones with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, history of extreme prematurity, and heart disease.
What are the possible side-effects?
All vaccines have potential side effects. The possible side effects of the flu vaccine can range from nothing, to minor redness and swelling at the site of the vaccine, to pain and soreness of the site for several days after the vaccine; to the most unusual but possible fever, body aches and headaches. Other possible side effects may present if the child is allergic to any components of the vaccines, then the child should not receive the vaccine: the possible side effect can be hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing which are signs of severe allergy called anaphylaxis. The vaccine contains some chicken egg component therefore if a child is allergic to eggs he/she should not receive the vaccine. Thankfully the most severe side effects are very rare.
As I stated in my previous posting the best preventions for the Flu are hand washing and the vaccine. I arm myself, my family, and my patients with the flu vaccine every year.
For more information on the flu vaccine visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/#flu .