Flu season is upon us, and one way to ensure your child does not get this virus -- or experiences reduced severity of symptoms -- is to have him or her get a flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all children older than six months get a flu shot or nasal spray, if they are between the ages of 2 and 8. We offer the flu vaccine at our Gaithersburg pediatrics office.
The flu vaccine is a seasonal vaccine where researchers predict the most likely strains of flu virus and prepare them in a vaccine. The 2014 flu virus protects against influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and an influenza B virus. Another vaccine, called the quadrivalent flu virus, protects against four flu types.
Flu vaccines given via nasal spray are attenuated viruses, meaning they are weaker forms of the flu virus. Those given by flu shot are attenuated or recombinant flu viruses. They do not have any live flu viruses, but instead are inactivated -- they cannot cause you or your child to get the flu.
When your child receives the flu vaccine, his or her body goes about making antibodies. These are immune system cells that fight a virus. Antibodies have “memory” where if a person is exposed to a flu virus again, the antibodies will be better prepared to fight the virus.
Remember that while the flu may be an inconvenience or mean a few missed workdays for an adult, it can make a child very sick. An estimated 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized due to the flu. The flu caused more than 100 deaths during the last flu season. Children younger than age 5 are especially vulnerable.
Of course, there are some children that come to our Gaithersburg pediatrics office that should not receive the flu vaccine. This includes if your child is feeling ill, allergic to eggs or has had a severe reaction to previous immunizations. If your child has asthma or a history of wheezing, he or she should not get the nasal spray vaccine.
If you are wondering if your child should or shouldn’t get the flu vaccine, call our Gaithersburg pediatrics office at (301) 977-2440 and a member of our office staff can assist you.