Affordable Care Act
Should I get the flu shot for me and my baby?
Published on October 03, 2016
The seasonal flu shot has a way of dividing people into three distinct groups. There are people who get the flu shot religiously, those who ambivalent about the shot and tend not to get it, and those who are actively opposed to getting the shot, either because they don’t think the flu shot is effective or because they’re concerned about potential side effects.
For many adults, the decision to either get or forego the flu vaccine can be straightforward, depending on the risks you’re willing to take with your own health. But the decision can more difficult for the parents of infants. Is it safe? Is it necessary? What risks and benefits are associated with giving babies the flu vaccine?
Here are some basic facts about the flu vaccine:
- Every flu season is different, so every year’s vaccine is different.
- Most flu vaccines are administered with a syringe into the arm muscle. For the 2016-2017 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against using the nasal spray flu vaccine.
- It can take two weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up antibodies against the flu.
- It is still possible to get the vaccine and still get sick with the flu if you are exposed to the virus before receiving the shot or before building up the antibodies, or for other reasons.
- The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receive the flu vaccine, with rare exceptions for people with allergies to eggs or any ingredients in the vaccine, and those with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
- Pregnant women are also recommended to receive the flu vaccine.
Getting the flu is a terrible experience for people of any age. It can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and even vomiting and diarrhea. Because the virus can change every year, the intensity of the symptoms can vary from one flu season to the next.
The symptoms can be worse and lead to further complications and hospitalization in older patients, those with other underlying heath conditions, and in babies and the very young.
The benefits of getting the flu shot are clear: With a simple injection and temporary soreness in your arm, you may be able avoid feeling absolutely miserable with the flu and help prevent its spread to your friends, family (including your baby) and coworkers. Vaccinating your baby can help prevent the spread of the flu from school-age siblings, for example.
The CDC estimates that the flu shot reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50-60% when the flu vaccine matches the strain of the virus that spreads within a population. Even if the vaccine doesn’t match the prevailing virus perfectly, the vaccine can still provide some protection from the worst symptoms.
According to the CDC, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks and the likelihood of negative side effects related to the flu shot. As stated before, anyone allergic to eggs or any of the ingredients of the vaccine should not get it. Since your baby’s allergies may not be fully known at 6 months old, be sure to ask your pediatrician for the warning signs of an allergic reaction.
This flu season, and every flu season, take the time to consider the flu vaccine for yourself and for your family. Nobody likes being sick with the flu, especially not babies (and their caretakers).