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It’s back! Believe it or not, preparation for the coming influenza (flu) season has begun. Flu season is typically from October through May, although the flu can be diagnosed year round. The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics has released their updated recommendations for the 2018-2019 flu “season” for physicians and laypersons to follow.

Here are some key points to make understanding the flu and flu prevention simple.

  • All children aged six months and older should be immunized with a flu shot prior to each season. By calendar year, this means that kids should ideally receive their flu shot by late October 2018.
  • If an infant or young child has never before received a flu shot, they will need 2 doses. The shot followed by a second dose, at least four weeks later, ensures they have the best possible immune response to the vaccine.
  • Parents and caregivers of children should receive their flu shot too. In particular, caregivers of children too young to be immunized should get their shot.
  • This year, FluMist®, an intranasal vaccine is again available to healthy children over the age of two. However, due to decreased effectiveness compared to the injected vaccine, the AAP recommends FluMist® only for healthy children who would otherwise refuse the shot. Which method is right for your child is worth a discussion with the doctor.
  • Infants, children and adults with egg allergy can still receive the flu shot.
  • Pregnant women can receive the flu shot but not the FluMist® at any time during their pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding mothers can also safely receive the flu shot.
  • Frequent hand washing, particularly before eating, is an important way of preventing the flu. Influenza is transmitted through respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing.
  • 179 children died during the 2017-2018 flu season, a large percentage of which had not been vaccinated.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, October 2018

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