It's that time of year again... Flu Season!
Seasonal flu activity may begin as early as October and can occur as late as May (CDC, 2012), so it’s important to get vaccinated early! Here are a few reminders and information on Influenza:
Influenza viruses are constantly changing. In fact, they can change from one season to the next. Each year, experts pick the virus strains to be included in the vaccine that they anticipate will be the most common during the given flu season (CDC, 2012). There is no way to predict how mild or severe the flu season will be, but ensuring you and your children are vaccinated is the best protection. Receiving the flu vaccine does not guarantee you will not get the flu and it does not protect you against other viruses. Rather, it will decrease your chance of getting the most common flu strains; and if you are infected, you may experience a milder case.
Children from infancy to about 14 years of age have the highest incidence of getting the illness. (Burns, Dunn, Brady, Starr, & Blosser, 2009). Almost everyone who is at least 6 months of age should receive a flu vaccine. There are a few groups who should not receive the flu vaccine: those who suffer from severe egg allergy, people who have experienced a previous severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine, and people with a history of Guillian-Barre syndrome (CDC, 2012). Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder that causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. It is often preceded by an illness and most people have a full recovery (CDC, 2009).
Symptoms of the flu include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, chills, cold-like symptoms, dizziness, sore throat, pain in the back and extremities, and a dry cough. In young children, vomiting, diarrhea, and croup may occur. In severe infection, there may be complications involving the lungs and the heart, such as pneumonia (Burn et al., 2009). Children with chronic conditions such as asthma and heart disease may be at greater risk for these complications from the flu (CDC, 2012).
Treatment includes supportive therapy such as bed rest, fluids, and fever reducers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen (Burns et al., 2009). Antiviral medications may occasionally be used as treatment, but in general are used only for children with moderate to severe infection and those with complicating medical conditions.
Hurry in and get your flu vaccine today! It takes 2 weeks after the vaccine for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza. The CDC recommends vaccination as soon as the vaccine is available to provide protection for as many people as possible prior to the start of flu season (CDC, 2012).
Please visit the CDC website for more details about this year’s influenza vaccine:
Burns, C.E., Dunn, A.M., Brady, M.A., Starr, N.B., 7 Blosser, C.G. (2009). Pediatric primary care (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012, June 14). What you should know for the 2012-2013 influenza season. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2012-2013.htm
Center for disease Control and Prevention (2009, December 15). General answers and questions about Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/gbs_qa.htm