Flu Shots and Football? It Must Be Fall!

September. Our kids are back in school. Our teams are back on the football field. And, our days are getting shorter and cooler.  But, how do I really know September is here?

Flu shots arrive!

Influenza vaccines are now available across the country, including our office in Kansas City. 

 NOW is the time to get your family protected from the influenza virus. It is NOT TOO EARLY to get vaccinated.

 Here are “5-W’s” about this year’s influenza vaccine: 

 What is influenza?

Influenza (“the flu”) is a virus that attacks the respiratory system (nose/throat/lungs). Symptoms of the flu are runny nose, sore throat, high fever with chills, muscle aches, and headache. 

Influenza is not the “stomach flu.”

Protecting against influenza is important because the disease can lead to many complications, from ear infections to severe pneumonias to death. The oldest and youngest people of our community are most vulnerable to these complications.

Who needs the flu shot?

The CDC and AAP recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an influenza vaccine.

In addition, all caregivers and siblings of children under 5 years should be protected for the sake of the child in their care.  

I believe people at especially high risk of complications from influenza should make this vaccine a priority.  These people include: 

  • children under the age of 5 
  • those with asthma, diabetes, or any chronic illness  
  • children with neurologic disorders 
  • families and care providers of children under the age of 6 months 
  • pregnant women 
  • families of pregnant women
  • health care providers

In addition, mothers who are breastfeeding should also get vaccinated. 

Those aged 9 and above only need one influenza vaccine (injectable or FluMist®).  Those under the age of 9 may need 2 vaccines separated by 4 weeks based upon their previous exposure to the vaccine.  Please ask your provider if your child needs one or two vaccines this season. 

Special note: Please see this information about who should NOT get the influenza vaccine.

Why does my family need to get the vaccine every year?

Like most viruses, influenza is tricky. The more people it infects, the more subtle changes occur to its structure. This means, that over time, the protection that one vaccine may offer can become less effective. In order to fight against the changing nature of the influenza virus, the viral bits in the vaccine change every year. To acquire protection from the “newest” viral strains, therefore, an annual vaccination is required. 

For the 2012-13 season, the influenza vaccine contains small bits from 3 strains of the virus. One of the three strains is similar to the one available in last year’s vaccine (H1N1). The other 2 strains are NEW, based upon influenza trends in other parts of the world. Visit this page for specific details on how these 3 strains were chosen. 

This year’s vaccine is not protective against H3N2v, the influenza strain associated with pig contact. Please use caution around these animals.

When can my child get the FluMist®?

The FluMist® a form of the influenza vaccine that is given by a nasal spray.  It is available for people 2-49 years old. FluMist® is a great alternative to an injectable vaccine for those who are a bit needle-phobic - small and big kids alike. 

Unlike the injectable influenza vaccine, FluMist® contains weakened, live influenza particles.  This allows the body to create an active immune response to the virus without causing the disease in recipients. 

FluMist® is not appropriate for those with some medical conditions, including severe asthma, or pregnant women.  For detailed information to determine if the FluMist® is right for your children, check the CDC

Where can I get the flu shot?

The flu shot should be widely available this year. Check first with your family’s health care providers for availability. Many employers in our area offer the vaccine for little to no charge. The flu shot is also available from local health departments for those who are uninsured. 

Need to find a location nearest you? Search your zip code on this handy widget from Flu.gov. 

Many additional questions about this year’s influenza vaccine are answered on this flu shot information page from the CDC.

 For up-to-the minute details about our flu season, follow @CDCFlu on Twitter. 

 Need even more help making this decision for your family? Contact your helpful healthcare provider. 

 Here’s to falling leaves, a winning season (Go Huskers!), and a healthy fall. Cheers.