Every fall as flu season rolls around, parents must decide whether or not to have their children vaccinated to protect against the illness. For some it is almost a back-to-school tradition, but for others, the immunization is a bit of an afterthought. Here at Urgent Care for Kids, we offer flu shots for both kids and their parents (we offer them for the whole family!). We had one of our Austin pediatricians, Dr. Nguyen, share with us a few facts on the flu, and why you should get the shot every year!
Flu or influenza is caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms typically include high fevers, cough, runny nose, fatigue, chills, and muscle aches. What is unique about the virus is that it changes every year so you are susceptible to getting ill every year. Also any previous antibodies that protect you will wane with time. Peak incidence starts around October and can go as late as May. The virus is highly contagious and requires only about 24 hours of incubation. It spreads from respiratory droplets and through contact. Practicing good and frequent hand washing will help reduce the risk of getting the infection.
Getting yearly flu vaccines can prevent illness and the spread of infection. Currently the vaccine is recommended for children over 6 months of age and will typically protect you from 3-4 different strains. Unfortunately the vaccine is unable to protect you from all the strains in the world, but it is usually able to protect against the most prevalent strain. Once the vaccine is administered it takes the body approximately two weeks to develop the appropriate antibodies to those particular strains. It is always beneficial to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
If you acquire the flu there are antiviral medications that may help if it is started within the first 48 hours. These medications can reduce the illness by only a day or two. They also do not get rid of the disease or all the symptoms, but are highly recommended for high risk individuals.
Urgent Care for Kids offers the traditional immunization, as well as the flu mist. We expect to get our first shipment of vaccines sometimes in September- just give us a call to check before stopping by!
Dr. Nguyen is a graduate of Texas Tech School of Medicine and completed his pediatric training at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. His primary interests are in pediatric emergency and urgent care. During his spare time he enjoys photography, studying mid-century design, cooking, and running.