Every year, approximately 5% to 20% of the entire U.S. population comes down with the flu. But from 2016 to 2017, over 100 children in the U.S. died due to influenza, and thousands more were hospitalized due to flu-related complications. Experts say we could be in for a rough flu season in 2017, so doctors all across the country are urging parents to get their children vaccinated before the end of the month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children six months of age and older should receive their flu vaccinations before November arrives. According to the CDC, around 59% of children received their vaccinations last year, with 76% of children under the age of two getting their shots. Teenagers had the lowest rates of vaccination at 49%. And immunization rates varied wildly from state to state: while 74.2% of children in Rhode Island received influenza vaccinations last year, only 43% did in Wyoming.
Recent studies found that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu-related deaths by 65% for healthy children and by 51% for children with chronic health conditions. In addition, research shows that approximately 80% of children who die from the flu were not vaccinated. Dr. Elissa Rubin of Healthy and Happy Pediatrics pointed out to a local CBS affiliate that it takes two weeks for the flu shot to actually protect against the virus. This is why it’s so important that children are vaccinated before flu season actually sets in; otherwise, they could still contract influenza after receiving the shot if the virus has already entered their system. In addition, the quadrivalent live attenuated flu vaccine (which comes in a nasal spray form known as FluMist) is not recommended for immunization in lieu of the shot.
But even for children who regularly put on a brave face, getting those annual shots can be tough. If you’re wondering how to best prepare your child for a shot and reassure them during the process, experts say that reminding your child to breathe can help. Have them picture blowing out birthday candles or have them blow bubbles in a drink you bring along. A study out of the University of Georgia found that children were less distressed during immunizations when they were able to watch cartoons during the appointment. Being careful not to over-assure is important too, as this can make children more stressed than necessary. Help them remember the pinch will last only a second and give them something fun to look forward to after it’s all over.
Whichever method or incentive you choose to use, just make sure to call your doctor’s office or go to your local urgent care center before October ends. That way, you’ll have more peace of mind and will be in a better position to protect the ones you love.