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Flu vaccine and kids: Say boo to the flu
October 11, 2021
Kid with flu on Halloween

With flu season upon us, coupled with COVID’s delta variant, it’s as important as ever to make sure your family is protected with the flu vaccine.

Pediatrician Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough explains the benefits of the flu shot and answers some common questions.

Who should get the flu shot and when?

Everyone 6 months and older should get the influenza vaccine – with a few exceptions for the small number of individuals who have had severe reactions to the flu vaccine in the past. Ideally, this should be done by the end of October to ensure protection as flu hits its peak.

Our motto at CHoR this year is “say boo to the flu” as a fun way to remind folks to get the shot by Halloween to give our immune systems that needed boost. That said, if you can’t squeeze it in before the end of the month, November isn’t too late.

Why is it as important as ever for people to get their flu vaccine this year?

While most people who get flu recover in a week or two, it CAN cause serious complications and severe illness requiring hospitalization. With COVID cases rising, even among kids, hospitals are seeing a surge in patients needing care.

The best way to keep from getting the flu, or at least prevent severe illness, is to get the flu shot. If your child is old enough, please make sure they get the COVID vaccine too. Now that most kids are back at school in person, we want to make sure they can stay there by keeping them healthy!

Can my child get their flu and COVID vaccines at the same time?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it is safe to get the COVID and flu vaccines at the same time. Data from other vaccines show that the way our bodies develop protection is similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines. Side effects are similar as well.

If you have concerns about your child getting both at the same time, you can certainly space them out by a couple weeks. The most important thing is that they do get them. Your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider is a great source for information and can answer any specific questions you may have.

What side effects can be expected from the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine may come with some side effects, but they’re generally mild and only last a day or two. These may include fatigue, low-grade fever, headache and pain at the injection site. I always tell my families that these are preferable to catching the flu and having severe symptoms for a week or more.

If my child does get sick, how will I know if their symptoms are due to flu, COVID or something else?

This is a tough one because the symptoms can be very similar – and both are quite contagious. Both COVID-19 and flu can cause fever, chills, cough, breathing difficulty, fatigue, sore throat, body aches and headaches.

The only way to know for certain is to be tested. Unless your child is exhibiting very concerning symptoms or having a hard time breathing, in which case they should go to the emergency room, I recommend reaching out to their pediatrician to find out if, when and where they recommend testing.

I can’t stress enough the importance of getting the flu and COVID vaccines for everyone who is eligible. We also need to continue with our other infection prevention measures to keep everyone healthy this fall and winter.

Last year, Dr. Godbout provided five critical reasons to get the flu shot which are just as relevant today.

Help minimize your child’s anxiety related to vaccination.

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