You probably got the flu shot for your kids, but thought maybe you would just wait it out until springtime. But with weekly reports home from school about new cases of the flu, you might be rethinking your stance on sticking out the season. Thing is, we’re already well into winter, so when is it too late to get the flu shot? You’re in luck, because there’s no time like the present to get it.
This flu season is unlike many others. The reason: Influenza B (and not A) is the strain that is currently affecting millions of people. To date, there have been over 174 million doses of the flu vaccine given to people, the Centers for Disease Control reported. “The Influenza B strain has not been seen in 27 years,” says Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician.
While either Influenza A and B can be dangerous (an estimated 56,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illnesses each year, the CDC found), Influenza B is particularly perilous. “Influenza B is also more common in kids and can cause complications,” says Dr. Mitzner. “Although Influenza B tends to start later in the season, this year it started earlier.”
How early can a child get the flu vaccine? “Children six months and older should get vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year,” says Dr. Mitzner. “And the CDC recommends vaccinated before the onset of activity, and it is still beneficial to get the vaccine while the flu is going around, which is usually until spring.” And if you thought that the flu shot will give you the flu, think again. The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu, the Mayo Clinic reported, since it doesn’t contain active viruses.
The flu vaccine boasts many benefits that can help keep your child and your family safe. “It can aid in decreasing the duration of illness, preventing hospitalizations, missed work and school and more,” says Dr. Mitzner. “It also can be life saving in children.”
In addition to getting the flu shot, there are other ways that your child can stay healthy — and safe. “Having proper hand hygiene etiquette is essential,” says Michell Reyes, MT, CIC, FAPIC, an infection control clinical manager at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC. “Both parents and children should wash their hands for at least 15-20 seconds with warm soap and water. They can also use alcohol-based sanitizers for additional safety.” Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth if possible as well.
Staying up-to-date with your child’s vaccine schedule can help keep sickness at bay. Just remember to get the flu shot as soon as it’s available. “Seasonal vaccination is always good to prevent the flu since it changes every year,” advises Reyes. So keep the coughing, aching, and sneezing away by getting the flu shot, and you’ll help protect not only yourself, but the people you love the most.