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Is It Too Late for a Flu Shot? Definitely Not!

February 10, 2020

No one wants to get the influenza virus (flu). We continue to vaccinate throughout the flu season as it remains the single best way to protect our children and families. 

Having the flu is far worse than having a bad cold and will usually last longer. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, body aches, cough, stuffy and/or runny nose and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Children suffering from the flu often refuse to eat, risking dehydration, and are fussy or listless especially  at night.

Influenza may vary in severity. Some patients, especially those who had their annual flu shot, may only get mildly ill, missing a few days to a week of school or work. However, influenza may be very severe. In some cases, it can lead to a hospital stay or even death. Otherwise healthy children are at risk of complications and death from the flu, especially if they are not vaccinated. 

Simply saying “we never get the flu shot and we never get the flu” is neither good protection nor good sense.

According to the most recent weekly influenza report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of the positive influenza test results this flu season have been in children and adults under the age of 25. That’s higher than the past few years, when less than half the cases were in children and young adults.

So far this flu season, there have been more than 250,000 hospitalizations and approximately 20,000 deaths from influenza in the U.S., with 54 pediatric deaths reported.  

Influenza Is Widespread in Florida

The best way to prevent the flu is with a yearly influenza vaccination. It is not too late to get your family flu shots, though it is ideal to schedule these vaccinations every fall. While it is not 100 percent protective, there are significantly fewer cases of serious disease in vaccinated children even if they get an influenza illness.

The seven reported pediatric deaths in Florida this season (as of Feb. 1) involved unvaccinated children.

Other ways to prevent the spread of influenza include:

  • Frequent handwashing

  • Avoiding touching the eyes, mouth and nose

  • Keeping your children at home until they are fever-free for 24 hours

  • Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces

Antiviral Drugs Are Available 

Antiviral drugs for the prevention of influenza also are available. While they lower the risk of influenza infection, they are not recommended for widespread or even routine use. Not only are they costly, but they have been known to cause an upset stomach or vomiting in some. Neuropsychiatric symptoms also are rarely associated with the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir).

You May Be High-Risk

If your child is at high-risk of complications from the flu — or they have a high-risk adult in their household — discuss a plan with your pediatrician.

People at high-risk include:

  • Children under 2 (children ages 2-5 are at increased risk)

  • Adults 65 years of age or older

  • Pregnant mothers

  • Those suffering from chronic illness such as heart, lung, kidney disease, asthma, neuromuscular diseases and diabetes

  • Those with weak immune systems due to immunodeficiency, HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment

Antiviral medication to prevent the flu or reduce its severity in high-risk patients who have been exposed within the prior 48 hours is recommended by the CDC. This includes, in addition to those high-risk patients noted above: 

  • High-risk children and adults up to two weeks following vaccination

  • Those who cannot get the influenza vaccine because they have contraindication to it such as a previous anaphylactic reaction to a flu shot

  • Those with severe immunodeficiencies

If your child has a fever and you think that they may have the flu, please call your pediatrician. If you or your children have not yet had your flu shot for 2019-2020, please do so today.

Choose To Reduce Your Risk.

Don't let the flu get you. Get the flu shot instead. Getting the flu shot not only protects you and your family, but also stops influenza from spreading.

Learn More

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