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Fall brings many things. That crisp, autumn breeze we were so desperate for during the steamy summer months. Those amazing yellow, red, and golden hues of changing leaves. But fall also means flu season, which can be deadly for some. Most doctors say the best way to avoid getting sick is a flu shot, but many people are still on the fence about the vaccination.
So The Stir sat down with Dr. Amisha Malhorta, a specialist in Pediatric Allergy, Infectious Disease, and Immunology at Rutgers' Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, to ask her about the best way to protect your family this season.
Who needs a flu shot? The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Still, records show only 1/2 of adults get vaccinated for the flu. That number is even smaller for children.
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A flu shot isn't the only vaccination option, right? There are two options. There is the usual shot you get in the arm that contains a dead flu virus. But there's also FluMist Quadrivalent, a nasal spray made with a weakened flu virus. Best part is, it's a needle-free option so your kid won't flip out about getting a shot.
Is one vaccination more effective? Efficacy of the FluMist Quadrivalent has been shown to be more effective than the shot in children.
Can't you get the flu from a flu vaccination? No. You don't get sick from it. During the winter, we have a lot of viruses circulating, not just influenza. If you get sick afterwards, it's probably just a bad cold and not the flu.
Does getting the vaccination guarantee my family won't get sick this season? There is no way to predict what will circulate. There are many strains of the flu and the shot and FluMist can protect you against four strains. But the CDC creates a vaccination of what we think is most likely to be out there. But even if there is a mismatch year when the vaccine doesn't match the strain, the vaccination could still give you some cross protection.
What's the worst thing that could happen if I get the flu? Every year, the CDC estimates 200,000 people get hospitalized with complications from the flu. When children get the flu, they often don't eat or drink, they get dehydrated, and they have low white blood cell count. When your white blood cells are low, you are more susceptible to other viruses or respiratory infections. Among the most serious complications are pneumonia or even death.
What's the best thing to do if I get the flu? Stay home so you don't spread it. Some doctor's offices have quick tests for the flu and there are anti-virals you can take, but they have to be given within the first day and most people don't realize they have the flu that early on.
When can we stop worrying about catching the flu? Flu season can last all the way until spring.
Does your family get the flu shot? Why or why not?