This post is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital and authored by Dr. Lauren Bailey, MD.
Vaccinate, Don’t Wait
Vaccinations are further at the forefront of the battle for our health as we head into the first flu and RSV season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It comes every year like clockwork. That’s right! It’s Influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season (you may insert a very sarcastic cheer). However, this year is going to look a lot different thanks to COVID-19. As with many things with this mysterious new virus, we don’t know how our bodies will respond if infected with COVID-19 and flu or RSV simultaneously. Flu in and of itself is a beast of a virus, leaving many at risk to develop secondary infections, such as ear infections and pneumonia. COVID-19 seems to be an equal rival.
This year, in addition to flu, RSV and other ailments, some pediatricians and other primary care providers will add COVID-19 to our arsenal of tests available to ensure the wellness and safety of your family. Rapid tests for the flu and RSV, with results in as little as 15 minutes, should be readily available throughout Acadiana physician offices.
While it seems like 2020 has been a year of unpredictability and most of us feel like we unwilling participants of an insane roller coaster, there is one thing that you can control…
Make sure that you and your little ones are up to date on all of your vaccinations (See a full vaccination schedule by age at CDC.gov/vaccines/schedules). Vaccinations have been proven over the years to be effective in preventing communicable diseases… I mean, does anyone know of someone other than FDR with polio? Over the last few years, some parents have chosen to not vaccinate their children against things like whooping cough, measles, mumps and chickenpox. As the herd immunity, or immunity granted to the group because the majority are immune through vaccinations, has waned, we have seen various outbreaks of illnesses that we haven’t seen in years. In addition to the traditional vaccines, it is even more important for you and your family to receive an annual flu shot.
An estimated 5 to 20 percent of Americans are expected to become infected with the flu each year.
In recent years, there has been a spike in the number of cases as well as the severity of many cases, leading to a higher number of deaths in the U.S. In fact, during the 2018-2019 flu season, there were 136 pediatric deaths attributed to the flu. This number is alarming considering the flu vaccine is readily available.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend vaccination, especially for children ages 5 and under. A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2017 showed a 51 percent decrease in the risk of death in children with an existing high-risk medical condition who received the flu vaccine. For healthy children, the decrease was reported at 65 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone 6 months or older receive the flu vaccine annually before Oct. 31. The injection is approved for ages 6 months and up, the nasal spray for ages 2-49 (as long as you don’t have certain medical conditions). It is important to talk to your pediatrician about which vaccination is right for your child, especially if your child has an egg allergy or a chronic medical condition.
While getting the vaccination is the first step to protecting yourself this winter, keep in mind it will take about 2 weeks for your body to develop antibodies to the flu.
If this is your child’s first flu season or they only received one vaccination in the previous flu season, they will need a flu booster four weeks after the first shot. Side effects, like low-grade fever and pain or redness at the injection site, are typically mild and resolve within a few days.
One concern that is voiced over and over again is whether or not you can get sick from the flu shot. The answer is no. The flu shot does not contain any live virus, and, therefore, is unable to cause a true infection. While your little one may feel under the weather the day after receiving the vaccine, it is short-lived as your body produces an inflammatory response to mount its immunity.
I know. It’s a lot of information to take in all at once.
Rest assured, you’re not alone. Your pediatrician or other primary care provider can help you determine what’s best for your child and family. Many offer special appointments for scheduled vaccinations, so your little one doesn’t have to be exposed to others who may be infected.
Dr. Lauren Bailey is a Board-Certified Pediatrician with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Learn more at LourdesRMC.com.