Winter is fast approaching and with it comes the onset of flu season. It’s the time of year when people spend the most time in close quarters, breathing the same air and sharing germs. Influenza, or what most people know as the flu,  is a viral respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Both Influenza A and Influenza B present with similar symptoms which include fever, aches, chills, cough, and sore throat. There is a vaccine available to help ward off the flu and while no vaccine is 100% effective, those vaccinated against influenza who do end up contracting it usually experience less severe symptoms and shorter bouts of illness. This year’s flu shot is available and getting it now will not decrease its effectiveness later in the season. 

Why is the flu shot important for kids?  

While the discomfort that comes along with having the flu is reason enough to get vaccinated against it,  children under five are more susceptible to serious complications because their immune systems are not as well-established as older children and adults. Those complications are often serious and include pneumonia, dehydration, encephalopathy, and in rare cases even death. 

Who can get a flu shot? 

Children over the age of six months who are otherwise healthy can receive the flu shot. Children under the age of 8 receiving the shot for the first time may need two doses spaced a month apart to establish an adequate baseline immunity level to ward off the flu. When healthy people get vaccinated it helps provide herd immunity for those members of society who can’t be vaccinated due to compromised immune systems, age, of allergies. 

For more information visit the Center for Disease Control’s 2019 fact sheet on this year’s flu vaccine.