With summer still upon us, it’s easy to forget about the flu. But the sooner you and your kids are vaccinated, the better, experts say.
An updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents to bring their children age six months and older to get vaccinated as soon as the 2013-14 seasonal flu shot becomes available.
Flu activity commonly peaks in the United States in January or February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October.
“It’s better not to wait until flu season hits full-force to try to protect yourself and your children,” says Dr. Cheryl Donovan-Hunt, a pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill. “It takes about two weeks or so for the vaccine to take effect and provide full protection.”
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the AAP policy statement recommends that kids be protected against the flu with either the trivalent vaccine, which contains three strains of the flu vaccine, or with a new quadrivalent vaccine.
The quadrivalent vaccine for this year’s flu season contains the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. Although it may offer improved protection, the AAP does not give preference for one type of flu vaccine over another.
“Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” says Dr. Henry Bernstein, lead author of the flu recommendations policy, in a news release. “Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon so they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.”
The single best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated each year, according to the CDC. This is especially true for people in vulnerable groups, including children with chronic health conditions, children of American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage, health care workers, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and anyone who has contact with high-risk children.
If you’re concerned about the vaccination making you or your child sick, don’t worry. There’s no chance of getting flu from the flu shot, according to Dr. Donovan-Hunt.
“The viruses in a flu shot are inactivate,” Donovan-Hunt says. “Like any medicine, it may cause mild side effects such as aches or a fever, but it’s generally well-tolerated.”