Deciding whether to vaccinate your child is a very personal decision and one that can cause a lot of stress and conflict for many parents. Many of the viruses that children are frequently vaccinated against are virtually non-existent in the U.S. today, causing parents to second guess the standard vaccination schedule. Plus, some studies have linked certain vaccinations to a slew of problems including autism, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, nerve damage, seizures and the list goes on. Being presented with these risks can have a paralyzing effect on parents trying to decide whether to vaccinate their children. Needless to say, whether or not to vaccinate is a decision that should be made thoughtfully.
Since flu season is upon us, many of you may be questioning if your little one truly needs the influenza vaccine. After all, you probably never had it as a child. Here are some things you should know before you decide:
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Before making any medical decision you should always consult with a trusted physician. When administering vaccines, most pediatricians lean toward the idea that the risks associated with the illness the vaccine is being proposed for are far greater than the potential side effects of the vaccine itself. However, your situation may be different, so always have this discussion if you're unsure.
-The flu shot will prevent individuals from contracting the influenza virus in most cases. However, some people may still get a milder case of it.
-The flu shot itself cannot give you the flu. The strain of the virus used for inoculation is much too weak to make the average person sick.
-Children are more susceptible to complications from the flu virus than adults are. These complications could include pneumonia, bronchitis, respiratory problems, sinus issues and ear infections, which can be very dangerous and often result in hospitalization of children.
-Children over the age of 2 can get the vaccine via nasal mist rather than injection, which is not only pain-free, but has shown to be more effective.
-Most flu vaccines are cultivated in chicken eggs, so if your child has an egg allergy, you could have issues. Egg-free flu vaccines were approved by the FDA last year, so they are available, but may not be easy to find.
-The shot can take up to two weeks to be fully effective. If you opt to vaccinate, do it before flu season gets underway or very early on, so there's less risk of contracting it during that time.
-Your child may experience soreness at the site of injection, mild fever and some aching for a few days after getting vaccinated.
-Vaccines contain chemical fillers and preservatives that cause concern for some parents. Discuss this with your pediatrician.
Babies and Toddlers
-The flu vaccine is only offered to babies 6 months and older. However, if contracted, the flu can cause serious complications for newborns.
-To protect newborns from the flu, mothers should be vaccinated during pregnancy. The flu antibodies are transmitted from mother to baby giving the baby immunity for several months after birth.
-If your child is younger than 6 months old when flu season begins, the best way to protect him is to vaccinate yourself and other members of the family so that the likelihood of the virus being brought into the home is slim.
-If your baby or toddler stays home with you or another trusted adult and doesn't interact with a lot of other children, there's likely very little risk of flu exposure. I chose not to vaccinate my son when he was an infant because we he wasn't in group childcare and I was breastfeeding which naturally boosts immunity. Our pediatrician confirmed that this was a good choice for our family.
-If your baby is in a group childcare setting--even if only for a couple of days a week--they may be required by the center to get a flu vaccine. This is very common practice and in some states it's mandated by law.
-If you choose not to vaccinate your child against the flu, you will likely have to keep them home or find an alternate arrangement for the duration of flu season.
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