Flu Shots: Why It’s Your Choice

In this post I outline all the reasons why giving your child a flu shot is 100% your choice. This is the same information I’ve shared with 1,000’s of families as a pediatric medical provider for more than a decade, and I continue to learn more every year.

Ready? Keep reading.

As you well know, every dang September pharmacies start putting out Christmas decorations and announcing they have flu shots. Your doctor has flu shots. Urgent Care is pushing flu shots. Pediatric providers are practically sobbing, begging you to pllleeeaaassseee give your baby a flu shot by Halloween (#flubeforeboo)

I’m sure if you asked your dentist, they’re probably going to try and give you a flu shot.

AN IMPERFECT flu VACCINE

But your aunt says she got the flu from the shot, and you don’t really like how you feel the day after you get one, and for goodness sakes do we really need another reason for your child to have a meltdown? Let’s tell them they’re getting a shot literally every.year.forever and see how they react.

Not to mention flu shots are maybe 50% effective at preventing the flu (some years, even less). Scientists have to guess which strain is going to come to town and hope (fingers crossed!) they get it right. How do you know a vaccine that is technically brand new every year is even safe to give? What about people with egg allergies? How about we let our immune systems fight it off the natural way?

KEEP THAT IMMUNE SYSTEM IN SHAPE
  • Get enough sleep (7-9 hr/night)
  • Reduce your intake of refined sugar
  • Avoid additives in your food/make up/cleaning products
  • Wash your hands with soap for 20seconds every time
  • Get fresh air daily
  • Don’t smoke or vape
  • Laugh often!

These are all reasons why the flu shot is an option for most people. It’s not mandatory because influenza is a complicated organism. So far it’s been impossible to craft a vaccine that lasts longer than a few months and actually capable of preventing infection more than 50% of the time. It’s optional because you’re a grown human who can make your own decisions about what you want to put in your body, and what you don’t.

It’s optional because there isn’t a great research yet on whether mandatory flu shots can or cannot save lives. How could there be? I won’t ever know which child I saved with a flu shot. The fact that they are still alive after another flu season is not evidence that their flu shot kept them from dying.

Yet there remains the fact that influenza is an extraordinarily dangerous virus.

In the 2017/2018 flu season, 80,000 people in the US died from flu, including 180 children.

80% of those children were not vaccinated.

– Washington Post, September 2018

So, if you’ve heard or thought or believe even some of what I’ve said above, then know I hear you. I know it’s an imperfect vaccine. I also know that, unless you give your immune system a heads-up, you are putting yourself and your family at a disadvantage during flu season (Oct-March in the US).

When deciding whether you or your child is a good fit for the shot this year, keep the following in mind:

FLU SHOTS: TRUE OR FALSE

  • You can get the flu from the flu shot.
    FALSE. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot anymore than you can get tetanus from your tetanus shot, or hepatitis from your hepatitis shot! No parent ever has come to me and said “You know, we’re not going to continue the polio series. Susie got a little polio after her last shot”. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. You CAN get an immune response, meaning you can get a fever, chills, a cough, and feel tired a few days later. This is a good sign! It means your body is actually responding to the shot and it was worth your time getting it.

  • People with egg allergies can’t get the shot.
    FALSE. Allergists and pediatricians are very clear on this; all people with egg allergies, no matter how severe, can safely receive any flu shot. (www.kidswithfoodallergies.org)

  • My child is terrified of shots and I can’t give them one.
    FALSE. My kids hate them, but we still manage through the anxiety. One strategy is to provide an IMMEDIATE reward. None of this “we’ll go to Target after” or “you’ll go to grandma’s this weekend”. Give a special treat (I’m referring to candy here, but you do you) the moment the shot is done and, prior to the shot, sing songs or distract with a little screen time if you can. I wrote a whole post on how to support a child through a tough tantrum. The same tactics apply here.

    Do not apologize, because that sends the message that you must have done something wrong if you’re saying sorry. And, most importantly, don’t discredit or demean their feelings! Saying “you’re fine” is not comforting, even if you say it with a nice voice. Worse is the (understandably) frustrated parent who’s child is hiding behind the exam table. I’ve heard “stop acting like a baby”, “stop crying”, “this is ridiculous”, “I’m going to take away ______ if you don’t come out”. None of this is helpful.

    The children that do the BEST when getting a flu shot are those who’s parents aren’t attempting to convince, coerce, cajole, or otherwise compromise on whether it’s happening or not. These parents are also not rolling their eyes or angry when their child is afraid. Saying “I know this isn’t fun, but it’ll be over in a second” is honest and true. You may have to firmly hug your child to get it over with, but helping your child get a flu shot with love and not impatience or frustration is what builds their confidence overtime.

  • I have a strong immune system. I don’t need one.
    MAYBE! You might be right. If you aren’t going to be around infants under 6 months of age, an adult 65 or older, anyone with asthma, anyone who’s had surgery recently, anyone with cancer, or anyone who has a weak or compromised immune system, then maybe you don’t need to get a shot this year. Remember: getting the flu shot is very rarely just about you. It’s the same reason you recycle. Does anything good happen to you when you separate your cans and glass from your regular trash? No. You do it because all our little efforts compound to impact the greater good (in this case, a cleaner environment). Same with the seasonal flu shot. You can pass the flu to other people 1 day before you even start having symptoms, and up to 5 days after getting sick. I doubt very much you’d quarantine yourself at home for a week because of flu, and you have no idea if the person you just sneezed on in the grocery store has cancer or not. Get a flu shot not because you can’t fight off the flu, but because it’s nice to not kill other people.

I also know you may not have any objections to getting a flu shot, but the mere idea of having to add another thing to your to-do list is nauseating.

– Dayna Nethercott PA-C

Fair excuse! Especially since most pharmacies will NOT administer flu shots to anyone under the age of 18. Thankfully there are many options for your child. School systems offer free shots, most pediatric offices do flu clinics in the evenings and on weekends, and visiting nurse services will host clinics at churches and libraries. Send me a message on Instagram and I will help you find a flu clinic near you!

Like anything in medicine, I will never tell you what you MUST or MUST NOT do, because thats not real life and honestly? Not very helpful. If I want to be bossed around I’ll go talk to my toddler. I will tell you that it is a smart idea to get yourself a flu shot most of the time. It is a very smart idea to give your child a flu shot most of the time.

Stay healthy this season friends!

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