It’s the most wonderFLU time of the year! That’s right – flu season is upon us. Fortunately, children and adults can now receive a flu vaccine at any Urgent Care for Kids location. Just stop in or easily make an appointment online! But what about that old saying “the flu shot makes you sick?” And does your family really need vaccines this year? Our Chief Medical Director, Dr. Kristi Whitenton, sheds some light on common misconceptions, influenza facts and proactive steps your household can take to stay healthy and ultimately avoid catching the flu.
What are the basic symptoms of the flu?
“Flu will usually have respiratory symptoms of a runny rose, sore throat and cough. Some kids will also have GI symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea along with the respiratory symptoms. It almost always has a pretty decent fever with it. The symptoms of the flu are much more intense than those of a cold. If there’s suspicion of the flu, I’d recommend parents come in right away so we can nip it in the bud.
The important time frame about treating the flu is that Tamiflu (the drug that treats flu) must be started within the first 48 hours of symptoms. We might miss the chance to treat it if symptoms have been present for a few days before we see the patient.”
When would you recommend getting vaccinated? Is it ever too late?
“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. Flu season usually concentrates in the late fall and winter, but it can pop up year round. The best thing to do is get the vaccination before flu season hits, and that is around November in Texas. The shots usually become available in September or October for each flu season. It takes about two weeks to build antibodies to the flu after a shot, so it won’t be effective immediately. Parents shouldn’t wait to get vaccinated until their coworkers and child’s classmates start coming down with the flu. Getting a flu shot sooner than later will best protect your family and yourself.
You must also be 6 months old to receive the vaccine. We strongly encourage all household contacts of infants less than six months old to vaccinate themselves as these little ones are particularly vulnerable during this time of the year and an infant would be most likely to contract flu from a household contact. Once a child turns 6 months, even if flu season has passed, we recommend proceeding with flu vaccination.”
What do you think is one most common misconception about the flu vaccines?
“A common misconception about the flu shot is that it causes the flu. When someone becomes sick very soon after receiving the flu shot, it’s truly a coincidence. We currently only give the injection-based vaccine that is a completely killed virus. This means it cannot make you sick. Though the intranasal vaccine has been popular in previous years since it isn’t a shot, it was possible to contract the flu from that vaccine because it was a live virus. We no longer give the intranasal vaccine because it’s been found to be ineffective. After receiving the shot, it’s normal to feel a little tired or have low energy, but this is common with most vaccines and does not mean the patient has actually contracted the flu.”
Can anyone be exempt from getting a flu shot?
“Children under 6 months or people with certain medical conditions are exempt from a flu vaccine. If someone has previously had a significant reaction to the flu shot, they may not receive it. Should someone prefer a preservative-free vaccine, we provide those at Urgent Care for Kids. Egg allergy was previously a reason to avoid the flu shot, but we have found that most people with egg allergy can still receive it. The flu shot is also recommended for pregnant women. Part of the screening process for flu shots helps us identify those patients who should not receive it, but discussing special situations with a physician is recommended.”
Are there other benefits to getting the flu vaccine other than preventing the flu?
“Vaccines not only protect the individual patient–they also protect their families and communities. Kids are exposed to classmates, siblings, parents, grandparents, and the public, so getting that vaccine can help those who may have a harder time fighting off the flu. It’s possible to spread the flu before showing any symptoms. Having large numbers of people vaccinated helps to prevent it from spreading through schools, families, and communities.”
What would you say to parents who are opting to not get their children vaccinated this season?
“Getting the flu vaccine is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. I will share that every year, unfortunately, there are hospitalizations and deaths from the flu that could have been prevented. Some of these involve previously healthy adults and children—it’s not always medically fragile patients. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks in most cases.
Everyone loves their kids and they want what’s best for them. Parents may be concerned about the preservatives in flu vaccines, and we encourage families to ask about it with the child’s physician. Should they opt for a preservative-free shot, they can certainly receive that at Urgent Care for Kids.”
How can we best prevent spreading the flu at school, daycare, work, home, etc.?
“Hand washing with soap and water is best. Hand sanitizer is an alternative if you don’t have access to that, but always try to scrub your hands with soap and water. If someone is sick, we recommend staying 6 feet away from the person who is sick because that is about how far respiratory particles can travel. Sometimes people will wear a mask if they are concerned about spreading the flu in public, but it’s best to avoid being in public all together if you have the flu.”
What vaccines will Urgent Care for Kids have available this flu season?
“We will exclusively have the ‘quadshot.’ We can vaccinate kids six months and up, including adults. If parents are bringing their children in for a flu shot and haven’t received one, they are welcome to get theirs at Urgent Care for Kids.”
Why should patients get vaccinated at Urgent Care for Kids?
“We are pediatric specialists, so our staff is very comfortable with treating children of all ages. Even in treating adults, we are going to take extra, special care because we are focused on the patient’s experience being the best it can be.”
Urgent Care for Kids is the largest pediatric urgent care chain in Texas, serving families in the greater Austin, DFW, and Houston areas. Our goal is to provide every patient with the highest quality medical care and superior customer service at a time and location that is convenient to working parents. We accept all major commercial insurance plans and all Texas Medicaid and CHIP plans in order to best serve our patients and their families. For medical opinions, please visit with our medical staff at our urgent care locations. To learn more about our locations, hours, and services we provide, please visit our website.