The arrival of fall and all things pumpkin is a distinct reminder that winter will soon be on its way.
Even though we live in Florida and it's much warmer climate than most other states during the winter season, this does not mean we are immune to the devastating flu effects which hit much colder climates of the country.
With this said, it’s a great reminder to begin thinking about protecting yourself and your little ones this winter by acquiring that annual influenza vaccine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, with a select group of children over 2 years of age being eligible for the intranasal influenza vaccine.
From a pediatric perspective, there is no clinical preference between the actual shot (inactivated intramuscular injection) and the nasal spray (live attenuated influenza vaccine) to protect children from the influenza virus.
However, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for each of your children as certain conditions and criteria may exclude specific patients from receiving the intranasal vaccine option.
It’s important to note, flu viruses are constantly changing with influenza vaccines updated from one season to the next.
In addition, our level of immunity from previous flu vaccines normally decline, an important reason to be vaccinated every season to protect against deadly flu strains.
This season’s flu vaccine protects against four strains of the influenza virus expected to be circulating in the coming months.
In addition, antiviral medications are available for influenza treatment if diagnosed with the flu, which could shorten the duration of symptoms, though not a substitute in the efficacy of the vaccine.
What must be clear, the goal of all influenza vaccines is to prevent influenza infection and complications. While the flu is not typically fatal, it is highly contagious and can be deadly to children, seniors and other vulnerable populations.
According to the CDC, an estimated 129 pediatric deaths were attributed to influenza-related complications during the 2018-2019 influenza season.
Furthermore, infants younger than 6 months old are too young to receive the vaccine, so caregivers must protect newborns by encouraging family and visitors to attain the influenza vaccine, including the vaccination of expectant mothers.
Please note, the inactivated influenza vaccine is safe for both pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
As always, with the constantly changing flu viruses and vaccines to combat those viruses, there can always be supply shortages, so everyone should prepare early while those supplies last.
In addition, there are often shortages of the intranasal flu vaccine as well, so in trying to cover all aspects of influenza prevention, speak with your clinical provider as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Pediatrics in Brevard is presently equipped with both the flu vaccine, having no preservatives for children under 3, and FluMist, the only nasal spray flu vaccine available for eligible children, ages 2 and up.
The most common side effects of FluMist are runny and/or stuffy noses, sore throat and fever over 100°F.
Other common concerns related to FluMist are for those who have severe allergies to eggs or any inactive ingredient in the vaccine; any life-threatening reactions to influenza vaccinations; or are 2 through 17 years old and take aspirin or medicines containing aspirin.
In addition, children under 2 years old have an increased risk of wheezing (difficulty with breathing) after getting FluMist.
There are simple steps that can be done in our daily routine to prevent the spread of influenza (as well as other colds and viruses).
- It’s important to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick; wash your hands with soap and water frequently, but especially after touching your face, before and after eating, and before and after using the restroom.
- If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If coughing or sneezing, do so into your elbow or shoulder instead of your hands.
- If you have cold symptoms and fever, stay home until you are without fever for 24 hours to prevent the spread of infection.
- In addition, if you are feeling under the weather, for whatever reason, DO NOT visit a newborn. Please save those visits for a time when you are feeling well. Newborns are immune-suppressed and can be largely affected by illness.
As always, if you are already concerned with flu-like symptoms, speak with your health care provider, pediatrician, or nurse practitioner immediately for possible testing and treatment.
Keep your family healthy this flu season by not only getting your flu shot, but getting it early, and well in advance of the flu hitting Brevard County.
Pediatrics in Brevard pediatrician, Betty Cheney Kelly, MD, FAAP, attended medical school at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio. Dr Cheney moved to Orlando, Florida, to complete her pediatric residency at Arnold Palmer Medical Center and stayed an additional year to complete a Chief Residency. Dr. Cheney joined Pediatrics in Brevard in 2019.