Vaccine hesitancy – also commonly known as the anti-vaccine movement has been named one of the top health threats for 20191 by the World Health Organization.2 It’s not hard to understand why. Since the vaccine debate has gained traction, infectious diseases such as measles that have long been rare in the U.S. have come back with a vengeance.3
When it comes to the flu vaccine, there are some prevailing myths and misconceptions. However, research shows that not only does the flu vaccine reduce flu illnesses overall,4 vaccinated children who do get sick tend to have milder symptoms and have a lower risk of flu complications5 such as respiratory and heart problems. Remaining unvaccinated during flu season can put populations at risk – such as children or people with a weaker immunity system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),4 unvaccinated children are more likely to die from the flu.
Protecting Your Child: The Flu Shot
Of course, being vigilant about protecting your family from the flu starts with simple, common sense steps that help prevent infection, such as washing hands frequently and avoiding close contact with others who have the flu or flu-like symptoms.
The CDC3 also recommends an annual flu shot for everyone beginning at six months of age. While no flu vaccine is 100 percent effective, it can help reduce your child’s chances of getting the flu. Your child is still susceptible to picking up the virus at school, in playgrounds and other public places. That’s why it’s also essential to recognize the signs of influenza so you can take action right away.
Your Three Step Anti-Flu Action Plan
We asked Norman Moore, Ph.D., director of scientific affairs, Infectious Disease at Abbott, to share the most important actions parents should take if they think their child has been infected with the flu. Ideally, these three steps should be taken within the first 48 hours.
- Get a flu test. For decades, the most accurate flu tests did not provide results quickly enough to inform doctors’ treatment choices because they had to be sent to central labs for processing. By the time those results came back, the window for optimal treatment and infection control was often closed. “Today, with innovations like the ID NOW™ molecular flu test, healthcare providers can perform and process the test, discuss results with the patient and make an informed treatment decision all in one patient visit,” said Moore. ID NOW is available in doctors’ offices as well as urgent care centers, pharmacy clinics and emergency rooms. The right diagnosis means your child can get the right care, right away.6
- Stop the spread. If your child does have the flu, it’s easy for him or her to spread the virus to playmates or family members. This can be especially dangerous for people at high risk for complications from the flu, such as infants, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like heart disease or asthma. Keep your child home, encourage older children to cough and sneeze into a tissue and be vigilant about handwashing for all members of the family. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – they can be gateways for viruses to enter the body. Wipe down countertops, doorknobs and toys with a household disinfectant.
- Use a flu treatment. FDA-approved antiviral flu treatments can help children and adults with the flu to recover more quickly, but they must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be effective. These medications are not sold over the counter, so you will need a prescription from your healthcare provider.
As a parent, you know that nothing is more important than your family’s health. Having a plan of action in place can help you put your children on the road to recovery sooner if they get sick this flu season.
1World Health Organization. Ten threats to global health in 2019. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019
2CBS News. Anti-vax movement among top 10 global health threats for 2019, World Health Organization says. Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/anti-vax-movement-among-top-10-global-health-threats-for-2019-world-health-organization/
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles Cases and Outbreaks. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Needs a Flu Vaccine and When. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the benefits of flu vaccination? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guide for considering influenza testing when influenza viruses are circulating in the community. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/consider-influenza-testing.htm