|Photo Credit: Sanofi Pasteur|
“The flu shot can prevent influenza illness in about 70-90% of healthy adults and children”
With fall officially here its only a matter of time until colds and the flu start to seriously make their rounds. Peek flu season occurs between November and April so it’s time to start thinking about taking precautions to protect you and your family.
- Wash your hands! Do it frequently and do it right. It should take you at least 20 seconds to wash your hands properly. That doesn’t sound like very long but next time you wash your hands time it, you may be surprised. Teach your kids to sing and entire verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star each time they wash their hands (it takes approximately 20 seconds to sing it)
- When possible cough/sneeze into your sleeve not into your hands! If you happen to have a Kleenex around even better just make sure you throw it out right away.
- If you think you have the flu please stay home. If you think your child has the flu please keep him or her at home. Not only is rest important for your own recovery but nobody wants you sharing those germs.
- Eat well and take care of yourself. I don’t just mean when you’re sick either. Taking care of your body while you are healthy will help you fight off those nasty cold and flu bugs.
- Try your best to keep your hands away from your face, especially when you are out and about. I know that’s a tough one but the easiest way for those bugs to get you is through your mouth, nose and eyes.
- Be diligent about cleaning areas or objects that are frequently being touched by others. Things like light switches, door knobs, computer keyboards, etc. are great places for germs to hang out waiting for the next person to come along and touch them!
- Get your flu shot!
I know that getting the flu shot, or taking your kids to get the flu shot is a very personal decision and I am not one to push things like that on anyone. Our daughter has asthma so for her protection our entire family will be rolling up our sleeves and getting vaccinated. For us it seems the most logical thing to do. Here are some quick facts about the flu shot to help you make an informed decision about it:
- The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that everyone over the age of six months get the flu shot.
- The shot can prevent flu illness in 70%-90% of healthy children and adults (that’s huge!)
- It is especially important for children or adults with chronic conditions to get vaccinated
- People who are morbidly obese should strongly consider getting the flu shot as studies suggest that they are more likely to be hospitalized during flu season.
- It is strongly recommended that people over the age of 65 get the flu shot as seniors have the highest rate of death and hospitalization from the flu
- Healthy children between the age of 6 and 23 months of age are at greater risk of suffering from flu related complications and it is strongly recommended that they are vaccinated.
- Children between 6 months and 9 years of age require two shots if they are being vaccinated for the first time (with a minimum of 4 weeks between each dose). After that they only require one annual shot.
- Pregnant women are encouraged to get the flu shot. It doesn’t matter how far along you are, the flu shot is safe for you and your baby. However, moms that are in the later stages of pregnancy (second and third trimester) are at greater risk of being hospitalized due to the flu.
- Anyone who is frequently in contact with those who are most at risk of developing flu related complications should be vaccinated. That includes anyone who cares for children (including healthy children) under the age of 6 months or who are in contact with pregnant women, health care providers, etc.
I think those are some compelling reasons to get your flu shot this year. But I also need to talk about who should not get a flu shot:
- Babies under the age of 6 months. The flu shot won’t actually harm a baby under the age of 6 months but it doesn’t actually work for them so there’s no point in subjecting them to an injection they don’t need.
- Those with an allergy to thimerosal. They do make the vaccine without thimerosal but you will want to check on availability in your area.
- If you or your child have an egg allergy talk to your doctor first before getting vaccinated. In most cases the flu shot is actually safe for those with egg allergies but it’s best to get expert medical advice on this one.
- If you aren’t feeling well and/or have a fever when you have a flu shot scheduled talk with the health care provider before proceeding. In most cases it’s still safe but not always.
Despite popular misconception you cannot get the flu from getting the flu shot! Yes, there can be side effects and they are generally a sore arm and/or a mild fever for a day or two. Like every medication or vaccination there are always exceptions. More serious side effects do exist but they are rare. Only you can decide what is best for you and your loves ones.