CLEVELAND – Flu season is here and the time to get kids vaccinated is now.
According to the CDC, last year there were 180 pediatric deaths due to influenza, and roughly 80 percent of them were in unvaccinated children.
This year, parents might notice that after a two-year hiatus, the nasal vaccine spray has made a return.
But when it comes to getting children vaccinated against the flu, what is better – the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray?
According to Frank Esper, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, while improvements made to the nasal vaccine have made it more effective, the flu shot is still the preferred way to go.
“While the mist would be an option, the shot is still the recommendation,” he said. “This year when any child over the age of six months goes to get a flu vaccine, the pediatricians are really going to stress the importance of the flu shot.”
Dr. Esper said sometimes parents are leery of the flu shot because think it can make their child sick with the flu, but he said this simply isn’t true.
“The flu shot is a dead virus shot – you cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” he said. “It has dead virus – pieces and parts of that virus – and it helps your immune system understand what to look for when it’s being attacked by flu.”
The flu is dangerous because it can cause pneumonia. When a flu virus develops into pneumonia, it can result in a child being admitted into the hospital.
Dr. Esper said it’s important to remember that by having your child vaccinated against the flu, you are not only protecting your child, but everyone else around your child, especially anyone vulnerable to becoming ill.
“There are a lot of people who are at-risk for having really bad flu – people who have asthma, bad immune systems, perhaps because they’re taking medications that reduce their immune system, or they have cancer,” he said. “Also, newborn babies cannot get the flu vaccine, but they can really get bad flu.”
Dr. Esper said the key to maximizing protection against the flu is to get the shot as soon as it’s available. The vaccination can take two to four weeks before it is completely effective, so parents will want to make sure their children have built up immunity before flu season hits.
For parents who have children who are terrified of shots, and were avoiding the flu shot because of this, Dr. Esper said the nasal vaccine spray is an option, as it’s more important to receive any flu vaccination than none at all.