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From the Mommy Desk…
Seems like everyone is talking about the flu… is it an epidemic, should I get the vaccine, children are dying. It is scary stuff for any mom. In today’s article I’ve tried to present the facts, so each mom can make up their own mind on how to take care of their children. Always, always consult a doctor if your child is sick.
So, to start with – should you get the vaccine? According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the odds of getting the flu by 70% to 90%. You may wonder why there’s such a wide range and actually it’s even wider than it seems: this statistic only applies to healthy adults. It turns out that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on a number of different factors. First is your age. The flu vaccine doesn’t work equally well in all people and is most effective in healthy adults. In young children, the flu vaccine is only about 66% effective at preventing the flu. It becomes more effective as children get older. There may also be slight differences depending on which vaccine you get. Some research shows that the nasal flu vaccine may offer the best protection for children.
The next factor to take into consideration is your general health. If you have a weak immune system to begin with, a vaccine may just not work as well. Many chronic illnesses can weaken a body’s defenses. The CDC estimates that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization (for flu and pneumonia) by 30% to 70% in people with chronic illnesses.
Also, the effectiveness of the vaccine depends on when you get it. At one time, the flu vaccine was only be available between October and the end of November. Experts now stress that you can now get it into December and January. Keep in mind that the flu season often doesn’t peak until February or later.
But the sooner you get it, the better. Why? Simple: the further you get into the flu season, the higher your risk of getting flu. Here’s something else to keep in mind: it can take two weeks for the flu vaccine to take effect. So if you’re exposed to the flu within that two week period, you might still get sick.
Finally, unlike other vaccines, the flu vaccine has to be redesigned each year so the effectiveness depends on how well it is matched to this year’s dominant strain of the flu and the dominant strains of the flu change every flu season. Once a flu season is over, the old vaccine is worthless. Furthermore, researchers have to create the vaccine long before the flu season starts, and they can’t know, for sure, what strains will be dominant when the flu season actually starts. They make predictions, and while those predictions are generally accurate, they aren’t foolproof.
Even though getting the flu vaccine isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get the flu, most health officials recommend getting the vaccine especially those who are at high risk for flu complications. While it may not be perfect, the flu vaccine is the best defense we have.
Another thing to consider is that the flu vaccine does not protect against cold viruses. Some people believe that the flu shot doesn’t work because they get sick despite being vaccinated. But in most of these cases, experts say, the flu vaccine did work — it’s just that these people came down with an unrelated cold virus. So how do you know if it is the flu or just the common cold? The simplest detector is that a cold is generally neck up – sore throat, sinus congestion, maybe a fever. The flu is generally all over the body – body aches, chills, high fever, extreme fatigue, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Another indicator is that the flu often is a sudden onset, while generally you feel a cold coming on and the symptoms seem to gradually worsen.
Obviously, we want to keep our families healthy, so here are the best ways to prevent your loved ones from getting sick:
From one mom to another,
Jenny Wilson is a mother of three. She teaches a Mommy & Me class at Central Presbyterian Day School, is a member of the Paris ISD school board and serves on the board of Paris Community Theatre and Children’s Advocacy Center. She also is on the PCT Children/Teen Theatre Advisory Committee, the Aiken Parent Association Board, the PJH Parent Association and is a Sunday school teacher at Holy Cross Episcopal Church. She also is a certified yoga instructor and owner of Everyday Yoga.