We’re headed into time of year again—flu season. The fever, chills, body aches and cough that can make you and your child miserable are not just minor annoyances. The illness can be devastating, particularly for young children whose immune systems are not yet strong enough to fight off the virus.
If you’re wondering whether your child should be vaccinated against the flu, you may find yourself encountering lots of differing opinions. Let’s take some time to debunk some of the myths and misinformation about children and the flu vaccine.
1. The flu vaccine causes the flu
“The flu shot is incapable of causing the illness because it’s an inactive virus,” says Dr. Anthony Germinario, co-chief resident physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road. Instead, he explains that the flu vaccine triggers an immune reaction that may bring muscle aches or other minor flu-like symptoms, but the vaccine cannot cause the flu.
2. My child is healthy and doesn’t need to be vaccinated
As noted previously, influenza is not an illness to be taken lightly. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated against the flu. Healthy people can spread the virus to others, so getting vaccinated helps minimize the spread of the disease.
3. The flu vaccine causes autism
Numerous studies have found no link between the flu vaccine or other vaccines and autism, says Dr. Germinario.
“There have been a lot of people who’ve looked at this,” he says. “Study after study has found there is no correlation between the flu shot or any vaccine and autism.”
4. Your child can't get the flu if they receive the flu shot
Receiving a flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, but it reduces the risk of flu by an estimated 40-60 percent when the vaccine is well-matched against the virus, according to the CDC. In addition, studies have shown that people who get the shot tend to have much milder cases of the illness if they become sick.
5. The flu shot has lots of side effects
Dr. Germinario notes that side effects from receiving the flu shot are usually quite minor. A common complaint is soreness at the injection site.
6. I’m pregnant, so I can’t get the flu shot
The CDC recommends pregnant women be vaccinated against the flu. In fact, it notes the flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women because of changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy and up to two week postpartum. The vaccine comes in two forms –a shot or nasal spray, but the CDC notes that pregnant women should only receive it by shot.
Getting the flu shot while you’re pregnant can also protect your baby from the flu for months after delivery, which is beneficial since infants younger than 6 months can’t get flu vaccines and are more likely to suffer serious complications from the illness.