While the weather has still been warm and sunny, we are already seeing cases of the influenza virus in our population. Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory virus that can cause high fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. For most healthy children, it causes mild illness and some missed days from school. In some cases, some people can have up to seven days of fever, which is longer than most upper respiratory viruses. However, for young infants or children with underlying medical conditions, especially asthma, heart disease, immune problems, or diabetes, it can cause a lot more complications. If you have any concern that your child may have influenza, we have a rapid nasal test in all of our clinics. If we find your child has influenza and is within 48 hours of symptoms onset, he or she will likely qualify for the antiviral medication called Tamiflu which can help shorten the duration of illness by about 24 hours.
While good hand hygiene is helpful at preventing the spread of this virus, it is also recommended that all children who are 6 months and older receive the seasonal influenza vaccine, with rare exceptions. This not only helps these kids not get sick, but can also help limit the spread of infection to more vulnerable people. The influenza vaccine is updated every year to try to predict which influenza viral variants will be circulating this season. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination in September and October of each year but if you miss this window, it’s still recommended to get any time during the fall through early spring as there is usually a second peak in cases in February. The first time an infant or child receives the influenza vaccine, they will need a booster dose one month after their initial dose. Going forward, they only need one dose per season. For children older than 2 years old, there is also a nasal influenza vaccine spray, called Flu Mist, that can be considered. However, it’s important you discuss this with your provider since it may not be recommended if your child has certain medical conditions or if they have received any live vaccines in the last month.
It is safe to receive the COVID and influenza vaccines at the same time, including the boosters of either vaccine. For the injected influenza vaccine, there is no minimum interval you have to wait with regards to timing it with other vaccines your child may have received. For the Flu Mist, there are some restrictions with other vaccines so make sure to discuss these with your provider. We are running influenza vaccine clinics throughout the fall and also are giving doses in the clinics, so contact our clinic if you would like to set up an appointment!
And lastly, the influenza vaccine does not cause the flu! Like many vaccines, it may cause mild headache, fever, and body aches in the first 1-2 days after vaccination. There are a lot of other circulating viruses during the fall/winter so many people actually get sick with those viruses around the same time they are getting their flu shot, not from the vaccine itself.