Who doesn’t love the fall time!? The leaves are changing, I can pull my cute sweaters out, football is on, and… the viruses are popping up all over the place. Cold, RSV, flu… ewww. This week let’s talk about who should get the flu shot. Well that’s easy, everyone should technically get a vaccine, but more importantly pregnant women and children need to be vaccinated.
When a woman is pregnant, her immune system is down and she can’t fight off germs as successfully as she could before pregnancy. Therefore she is more likely to get sick during this time and if she does get the flu the virus is likely to be more severe, possibly requiring hospitalization. In addition to mom being very sick, a high fever can negatively affect the fetus by causing the baby to have a very high heart rate or causing neural tube defects that can negatively affect the baby’s development.
It is recommended by the CDC that all pregnant women receive the flu vaccine in the form of an injection during the flu season. Pregnant women should not receive the intranasal vaccine because this contains a live virus that can harm the baby. By getting the flu shot you will help protect yourself from the flu as well as protecting your baby from the flu for the first months of life. Even if you still do get the flu, the illness will not be as severe as it would had you forgone receiving the vaccination.
I spoke with Nurse Keisha, our pediatric corespondent, to get information on vaccinating our young kiddos. Like pregnant women, children are at a big risk of getting the flu. When babies get the flu they often will end up needing hospitalization and that can quickly turn into any parent’s nightmare. Children younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, which is why it is important for mom to have gotten vaccinated in pregnancy so she can pass immunity to her baby. Breastfeeding is also a good idea to help boost their immunity in this susceptible time. It is also important that all members of the household and caregivers are vaccinated to decrease the chance of them bring infected and passing it on to your baby. Sorry dads, you need to get the shot too!
Babies & children over 6 months will need to receive two doses of the vaccine the first time they are vaccinated. The booster dose will need to be given 30 days after the initial injection. This will protect the child for the entire flu season. The following year, one dose will be sufficient.
It goes with out saying that we should be doing other things to prevent the spread of flu like washing our hands, keeping your baby away from sick children and caregivers, and eating healthy. However, receiving the flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu each year. Visit the CDC website for more information on protecting your self and your little ones from the flu virus this year.
From your friendly neighborhood nurse!