I recently sat down with Rachel Spangenthal of NBC33 to discuss something that should be on everyone in Baton Rouge's radar this time of year: influenza. I always get a lot of questions about the flu and flu vaccines and, since we are in the middle of flu season, it seemed like an obvious blog post for West Pediatrics!
Nationwide and in Baton Rouge, flu activity is on the rise this time of year. Just last week (Jan. 8-Jan. 14, 2017), the Louisiana Department of Health found that "influenza activity increased slightly this week in Louisiana and is just below the regional baseline." This is especially important for our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that "[s]chool-aged children bear a large influenza disease burden and have a significantly higher chance of seeking influenza-related medical care compared with healthy adults." Therefore, it is imperative we do all that we can to protect them from getting the flu.
The most common question I receive about the flu is, "Should I get the flu shot?" The answer is yes, yes, and yes! The Center for Disease Control stated that "[a] 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012." And, while the flu shot is certainly not a guarantee against getting the flu, vaccinated victims of the flu note their symptoms to be milder than those who did not get vaccinated.
As for the "who and when", the AAP recommends that everyone older than 6 months should receive the flu vaccine. It is also especially important that caregivers of infants less than 6 months old get the flu vaccine in order to reduce the chance of exposing the unvaccinated infants to the virus. Flu season generally starts in October and can last all the way until May, so if you have not yet received the shot, do it ASAP... it's NOT too late, we've still got a few months to go!
In terms of the vaccine itself, the flu vaccine changes each year because the strains of the flu change each year. Scientists and other vaccine developers study which strains they should include in the vaccine based on what they expect to be out there, so there is a little guesswork involved. Some years the vaccine is more effective than others. This year, it appears there has been a good match.
While there are different types of flu vaccines (protecting against either 3 or 4 strains), there really isn't one that is recommended over the other. However, the AAP and the CDC have recommended against using the flu mist. During the last 3 flu seasons, the flu mist was only shown to be effective 3% of the time while the flu shot was effective 63% of the time.
In addition to getting your flu shot, frequent hand washing and keeping your kids (and yourself!) home from school/work while sick are important to reduce the spread of the virus and to reduce your chances of getting sick. If you do have flu-like symptoms (high fever, cough, runny nose, body aches), it is important to contact your doctor soon after symptoms develop for recommendations for possible treatment!
As always, West Pediatrics's patients should contact me at any time with any questions! Stay well and don't forget to get your shot and wash your hands!!
Questions or comments? Idea for our next blog post? Want more information on West Pediatrics, Baton Rouge's only concierge pediatric practice with 24/7 access to your doctor and house calls? Contact us today- we look forward to hearing from you!