Vaccinate Your Baby

Seasonal Flu

Click on the photo above to open the Influenza page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Influenza (flu) is a serious disease. It is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs). You get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.

Common symptoms of the flu include fever, headache and/or body aches, fatigue, coughing and/or sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose, and chills. Many people confuse the flu with the common cold, which are both respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. In general, colds are milder. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense with the flu, and the flu can result in serious health problems, hospitalizations and even death. For an easy-to-read chart on cold vs. flu symptoms, click here.

The flu season is unpredictable, but it often starts in the fall and peaks in January or February.

The Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu each year resulting in about 200,000 hospitalizations and anywhere between 3,000 to 49,0000 flu-related deaths.

Everyone has the chance of getting sick with the flu. During a "typical" flu season, the majority of deaths resulting from seasonal flu occur in the elderly. However, the highest rates of infection and hospitalization are among young children. Each year in the U.S., more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized and approximately 100 children under the age of 5 die as a result of the flu. Sadly, during the 2014-15 flu season, 145 children died due to the flu and its complications.

Even healthy children and adults can get the flu and it can be serious. Also, keep in mind that healthy people can spread the flu to those individuals with weaker immune systems and it can result in serious illness. It's important to protect your family and those around you from getting sick.

The Vaccine

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect your family against the disease. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine. Immunization is especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications including children less than 5 years of age, pregnant women, people 65 years of age and older, people with chronic health conditions, people who live in nursing homes/long-term care facilities, and people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu.

Since the flu vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than 6 months old, the best way to protect these children is to make certain that their household contacts and caregivers are vaccinated. In addition, pregnant women need to get vaccinated against the flu. Changes to a pregnant woman's immune system can make her more sensitive to the flu and cause her to become seriously ill. Vaccinating during pregnancy provides protection to the mother and to the baby after he or she is born (up to 6 months old). Once the baby is born, breastfeeding will also help an infant stay healthy during flu season. The breast milk passes a mother's antibodies to her baby, which help fight off infection. Flu vaccination during pregnancy is also recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

And, although a common belief, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. For more flu facts vs. fiction, visit Families Fighting Flu.

A new vaccine is created for each flu season and it protects against the viruses that researchers believe will be most common that season. For the 2015-16 flu season, there are a few different types of flu vaccine available and they are all effective. Some of the vaccines protect against three flu virus strains (trivalent) while others protect against four flu virus strains (quadrivalent). Most flu vaccines are given as a shot, but the nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) is also available for healthy people between 2- 49 years old. In addition, a high dose flu shot is available for people over 65 years of age.

It's important to note that in order to be fully protected against the flu, children 6 months through 8 years old need 2 doses of flu vaccine if it's their first season of being vaccinated.

Additional Resources

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