September may mark the arrival of a new school year and cooler weather, but it also means that the annual flu season is just around the corner. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong, it’s more important than ever to make sure that every member of your family gets their flu shot as early as possible.
Everyone is susceptible to influenza, but early seasonal vaccination can help protect your family’s health and slow the spread of the flu virus. And if everyone does their part in keeping this flu season as limited as possible, hospitals and medical providers can continue focusing their efforts on battling COVID-19.
Here at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, we’re dedicated to helping our young patients stay healthy through flu season and beyond. Here’s why your children (and every member of your household) needs a flu shot, and why it’s important to get it early.
Getting an annual flu shot is the first and most important step you can take to protect your children — and yourself — from seasonal influenza. The vaccine changes each year, based on experts’ predictions of which viral strains are most likely to circulate in the coming season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for everyone, with two exceptions: babies younger than six months and people who have life-threatening allergies to any of the vaccine’s ingredients.
The flu shot is especially important for people who fall into a high-risk category that increases their chances of developing serious complications if they come down with the flu. This includes children younger than the age of five (especially those younger than the age of two), among others.
Your child’s flu shot doesn’t just protect them, it also helps protect the people they come into contact with each day. In fact, people who are vaccinated are much less likely to catch the virus and pass it on to others.
Although the exact timing and duration of the flu season vary from one year to the next, it typically runs from late fall to late spring, peaking between December and February.
Getting vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible in the season — ideally by the end of October — offers the best chance for protection all season long. After your child receives the vaccine, it takes about two weeks for their body to produce enough antibodies to protect them from the virus.
Influenza activity usually begins to ramp up by mid-October. Although it tends to peak through the winter months, it’s often still circulating in the spring — sometimes as late as May. Getting vaccinated in early fall provides full protection for the entire season, or about six months.
It’s important to note, however, that it is possible to get vaccinated too early; getting a flu shot in July or August for the upcoming season is associated with reduced protection or immunity later in the season.
A common myth about the flu shot is that it can infect you with the flu — you may even be familiar with someone who says they’ve experienced flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine.
The fact is, the flu vaccine can’t infect you with the flu virus because it’s created with either dead viral material or a single protein from live viral material. Dead viral material isn’t active and can’t cause illness, and the single-protein vaccine is made to trigger an immune response without causing illness.
Some people experience temporary flu-like symptoms like fatigue and mild muscle aches after receiving the live vaccine. These symptoms are minor possible side effects of the live vaccine, not a sign of illness. These symptoms usually appear within one day of receiving the shot and subside soon after.
Getting vaccinated against in the seasonal flu in September or October will keep your family protected all season long. But even if you can’t find time in your schedule until early November, it’s never too late to benefit from a flu shot: securing partial seasonal protection is always better than no protection at all.
To schedule a flu shot appointment for your child or adolescent at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center, give us a call at 410-504-6676 today.