October has once again snuck up on me. Thrown into the rituals of fall along the Emerald Coast — the Fishing Rodeo, soccer games, AR tests, and prepping for Halloween, I suddenly realized that it was time for our annual flu vaccination. When the kids were little, these vaccinations were automatic, since someone always had an October check-up and we took advantage of that appointment to get vaccinated.
In 2009, when the threat of H1N1 or “bird flu” was on everyone’s mind, we ended up at the health department for vaccines, simply because they were available there and were hard to find in our pediatricians office. I’m almost positive the office had the shot available, but I was looking for the mist for Alex.
This year, we happened to be out running errands when he asked when we were going to get “the water up our noses,” so now it’s time to get vaccinated.
For the record, I’m pro-vaccinations. My kids have been vaccinated on a traditional vaccination schedule and I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. I take to heart the CDC’s recommendations for Universal Flu vaccinations for everyone over the age of six months seriously.
According to a recent review of scientific literature, researchers have found that the nasal spray is the most effective way to protect kids between the ages of 2 two and six. In the study, the flu nasal vaccine was effective in 83 percent of those vaccinated, meaning vaccinated kids were 83 percent less likely to get the flu than kids who weren’t vaccinated.
Furthermore, this year the CDC has approved a vaccine designed to be more effective than years past. This year, the vaccine is designed to combat two types of Influenza B strains and two types of Influenza A strains, as opposed to last year’s vaccine, which only protected recipients from three strains. In theory, you should be protected from more strains this year.
All vaccines carry risks, and the flu vaccine is no exception. Between one and two people out of a million may develop a serious auto immune condition called Guillian Barre’ syndrome. Another one out of every million people vaccinated may develop a severe allergic reaction. Although continuing research refutes a link between thimerosal and autism, five of the six current vaccine manufacturers make at least one thimerosal-free vaccine.
Last year, 20,000 children under the age of five were hospitalized for complications from the flu, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and dehydration. While understanding that some families can’t or won’t vaccinate, I feel like we’re doing our part to protect the “herd.” We vaccinate so we don’t expose those who don’t to the virus.
Flu vaccinations are an important and personal decision for each family. If you opt to vaccinate, public health officials encourage you to do so early.
You can find flu vaccinations at your doctor’s office, pediatrician’s office and even local pharmacies. For many, these preventive practices are covered by your insurance plan and are free. If you choose not to vaccinate or find yourself sick with the flu, drugs like Tamiflu are effective in shortening and lessening the illness if taken within 48 hours of symptoms first appearing.
Drinking plenty of fluids, taking over-the-counter pain medication, and getting plenty of rest at home can also help. Good old-fashioned hand-washing is another effective tool for combating the illness. Flu germs can live for up to six hours on your skin, and eight hours on hard surfaces.
While the debate around vaccinations and flu shots will go on for some time, flu season is just around the corner, so now is the time to get prepared.
Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.