Flu season begins in earnest in November. So that means that it’s best to make sure you and your family get your flu vaccines by the end of October — or preferably as soon as the flu shot is available, says a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
It’s important to get children vaccinated sooner rather than later, because it takes the body up to four weeks to develop a protective immune response, says pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD.
Parents should make sure that their children have time to build up their immunity so that once the flu season gets under way, they are well-protected.
A flu vaccine every year
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends annual seasonal flu vaccination for everyone age 6 months and older, including children and adolescents.
Many parents erroneously think that their child doesn’t need to get a flu shot every year, Dr. Esper says. But, he says, it’s important to get a flu shot every year.
“The influenza virus constantly changes the way it looks or completely new strains appear altogether, so that the last year’s vaccine doesn’t work very well or at all,” Dr. Esper says. “And that’s why they need to get vaccinated every year.”
Flu can be dangerous
Of the scores of respiratory viruses that appear every year between November and April, the flu is the one that causes doctors the most concern. Dr. Esper says. The flu is very dangerous. Influenza is one of the top infectious-related causes of deaths in the United States overall.
Even if the flu doesn’t produce symptoms bad enough for a child to stay home from school, the child can still spread the virus to countless others — some of whom could get very sick.
If you want to check how active the flu is in your area, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts maps and other information online that are updated weekly.
Children can still get sick
It’s important for parents to also know that getting vaccinated against the flu does not protect a child from the hundreds of other viral infections that are spread during this time of year, Dr. Esper says.
“They’re going to still get sick and so a lot of times people say, ‘I got the flu shot, but my child still got the flu,’ – probably not,” Dr. Esper says. “They probably got another one of those 100 unnamed viruses that have the same symptoms of fever and cough and runny nose.”