Flu Shots Really Do Protect KidsOct 25, 2013
Flu season is here and you might have wondered: do flu vaccines really make a difference? The answer is yes! Dr. Cindy Gellner talks about how flu shots work, why it's important for everyone in the family to get them, and about new guidelines for children that have an egg allergy.
Dr. Cindy Gellner: So it is flu season. It's here. Yep. So should my child get a flu shot even if they have an egg allergy? Absolutely. There is a lot of new guidelines out there and I am here to tell you all about flu shots and those new guidelines. I am Dr. Cindy Gellner and that's today on The Scope.
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Dr. Cindy Gellner: Do flu vaccines really make a difference? Yes. Absolutely. So if your child happens to actually get true influenza and they've had a flu vaccine they are going to be much less sick than if they did not get the flu vaccine. If your child has not gotten the flu vaccine and they do get the flu, it can be pretty bad.
The flu can cause all sorts of symptoms like not only making you have a high fever, feeling like you've been hit by a truck, not wanting to eat, not wanting to drink, a really sore throat, just feeling absolutely horrible. It can also cause pneumonia. It can also cause them to be hospitalized because they are very ill.
The flu is deadly to some children as well so the best thing you can do for your child is to make sure they get a flu vaccine every single year.
So there is a lot of questions about flu shots and I hope that today we can help calm some of your fears. All children should get flu vaccines starting at the age of six months but if everyone in the family or anyone who takes care of that baby gets the flu vaccine they will actually help protect that baby from the flu.
Kids who are under eight years old who have never gotten the flu vaccine, or if they have only had one vaccine in the year prior and that was the first time that they ever got a flu vaccine, they actually need two doses one month apart to help boost up their immune system. Any child over nine can only have one flu vaccine every year.
If your child is over the age of two and they are otherwise healthy, they are currently not having any respiratory problems and they are not currently receiving chemotherapy, then they can actually get the flu mist. The difference is the flu shot is a dead virus. You cannot get the flu from a dead virus.
What they do is they actually take the virus and take out all the ability of that virus to make new virus and put it in the vaccine. So your body is going to recognize the outside shell of that flu virus and start building antibodies against it but that virus that they put in to you for the flu shot cannot make more virus so you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Chances are if you have been around somebody who has true influenza within two weeks of getting the flu shot or you been around somebody else that has another virus, one of the 300 floating around here, then you are going to feel sick after the flu vaccine but you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Flu mist, that is the little spray that goes up the nose. That is for ages two and up, remember, and that vaccine is a weakened version of the flu virus which is why we can only give it to kids who are over the age of two. The kids under the age of two don't have the immunity to protect themselves against this weakened live virus.
So the main side effects for flu vaccine are pretty much just the same as any other vaccine. A lot of kids will have a fever. Their legs might hurt. They might feel a little bit run down. The main side effect of the flu mist is actually a little bit of a runny nose but most kids tolerate the flu vaccine very, very well.
If you have ever gone on the Internet, you might see a whole bunch of other information out there specifically about mercury or thimerosal which is the preservative which used to be higher in many different vaccines and that has actually been taken out of a lot of vaccines.
There is a tiny amount of thimerosal in the flu vaccines that are still available and honestly you can get just as much mercury if you just eat a couple handfuls of dirt. So the flu vaccines are actually very safe. The research has shown that the amount of mercury in a flu vaccine is really not harmful. You have got more in your environment than you will get in a flu vaccine.
So a lot of parents wonder about what that red swelling is after they get a shot and this is for any vaccine not just the flu vaccine. It is actually your body's immune system making antibodies against the virus so it actually a good thing.
It is a sign showing that your body's immune system is doing its job and making antibodies so when you see the real virus, not just the vaccine, but when you see the real virus, it knows exactly what to do with it.
So one big question is what if my child has an egg allergy and actually it is really good that people ask this question because the information just changed. In the past we were referring people to an allergist's office to get their flu vaccines if their child has an egg allergy.
I found out recently a lot of allergists are not stocking the flu vaccine anymore and the main reason is because recently the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has decided the benefits of receiving the flu vaccine outweighs the risk even for those with egg allergies.
In the past they used to say that someone who got an egg allergy and got a flu vaccine had to have it done in an allergist's office and they had to wait for 30 minutes afterwards and honestly they said that special precautions aren't really warranted anymore. Studies involving over 4,000 egg allergic people, there have been no cases of allergic reactions when given the flu vaccine even among those with the severe egg allergy.
What they actually said was that people with an egg allergy are not at additional risk even though the vaccine may contain some amount of egg protein; however, they did say that with any vaccine, anybody giving the flu vaccine should have procedures in place on the very rare occasion that somebody would have an anaphylactic or life threatening illness.
In those cases somebody would have an EpiPen nearby. Anybody with a severe allergy should have an EpiPen nearby anyways and so they have said that this should be still something that you keep on hand anytime you are giving a flu vaccine to someone with an egg allergy. So if you or your child have an egg allergy and you have concerns about getting a flu vaccine, please talk to your doctor about this.
As a physician and as a parent, I strongly recommend that your family all get vaccinated for the flu if they are over six months old. Everybody is at risk for the flu. Kids are more at risk. Asthmatic kids absolutely should get a flu vaccine. Diabetics should absolutely get a flu vaccine.
So flu vaccines will definitely help prevent you from getting the flu. If you do get the flu it is going to be a much, much more mild case that you would have had if you didn't get your shot. I am Dr. Cindy Gellner and thank you for listening to The Scope.
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