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Flu Shots

introI would like to welcome Dr. Cristina Mitchell from Hillside Family and Community Medicine as a new contributor to Kidoinfo. She will share her knowledge and expertise related to health issues for kids.

With kids back in school and the weather changing, you may be wondering about the upcoming flu season. Read on for what Dr. Cristina Mitchell has to say,

Flu Shots for All!

It’s flu vaccine time! In the last few years, flu vaccine recommendations have been expanded to include almost everyone. Vaccination is usually 70-90% effective in preventing influenza in healthy adults and children. If you and your kids haven’t been vaccinated in the past, you should consider it this year, especially since unvaccinated healthy people can spread the flu to others who are most vulnerable to its complications. Besides, having the flu (or taking care of kids with the flu) is no fun at all.

What is the flu?
The flu (influenza) is a serious respiratory illness caused by a virus. It is not the same as the common cold, which can sometimes cause fever, or a gastrointestinal illness (sometimes called “the stomach flu”). Symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, severe body aches, cough, congestion, and loss of appetite. It can last for up to 7-10 days. Between 2 and 20% of the U.S. population gets infected every year leading to 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations.

Who should get the flu vaccine?
Anyone who wants to reduce the risk of becoming ill with influenza or spreading it to others should get vaccinated. More specifically, influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for all children age 6 months to 5 years; everyone age 50 and over; anyone with chronic medical problems, including asthma, diabetes, and seizure disorders; nursing home residents; women who will be pregnant during the influenza season; health care workers; and anyone who is a household contact for any of the above groups. That covers almost all kids and moms of young kids.

Who should not get the flu vaccine?Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous dose of influenza vaccine should not get the vaccine.

How is the flu vaccine given?
There are two types of flu vaccine currently available.

– The most common vaccine is the injectable type, which is made from inactivated virus. This vaccine is not alive and thus can be received by just about everyone. Children younger than 9 when they receive their first dose will need a booster dose about 1 month later. Also, children who did not get their second dose in the preceding year will need a booster.

– The second type of vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine, which means the virus is alive but weakened (brand name FluMist). It is given intranasally (inhaled). This vaccine is only recommended for people between the ages of 5 and 50 who have no other medical problems, and it’s great for kids (and grown ups) who hate needles.

Can I get the flu from a flu vaccine?
No, you can’t get the flu from the vaccine – it contains a dead or significantly weakened virus. However, since the vaccine doesn’t take effect for a few weeks after it is received (your body takes time to develop immunity), you can come down with the flu during this period. That’s why it’s best to get vaccinated early.

What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
By far, the most common side effect of injectable flu vaccine is soreness and/or redness at the injection site. The most common side effects of nasal flu vaccine are runny nose and congestion.

When should I get vaccinated?
Your family doctor, pediatrician, or internist will be happy to give you more information on preventing the flu. Or you can call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Information Hotline at 1-800-232-2522.

Cristina Mitchell, MD
Hillside Family and Community Medicine

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  • I got the sniffy version. “The Mist” they call it. My kids got it too. Is this thimerisol free? I’ll put it out there: I think it is and I think there is not a limited supply. You just have to be older than 2 and younger than 49.

  • Info I received from the RI Dept of Health: “The Wellness Co. located 132A George M. Cohan Blvd. on the East Side of Providence has a limited supply of thimerosal-free injectable vaccine which is available for pregnant women who request the vaccine. The phone number is 461-0662.”

  • Does anyone know where I can get a thimerosal-free flu shot this season? I have contacted my primary care doctor, ob/gyn, a couple of clinics, and Women & Infants hospital, and none of them offer it. I also contacted the RI Dept of Health and they couldn’t tell me who (if anyone) offers it in the state. I am pregnant and would rather not take the chance of harming my unborn child. Thanks!

  • Parents, PLEASE be aware that MOST flu shots given to children today contain 25 mcg of thimerosal, which is a VERY toxic, mercury- based preservative. More and more information is coming ot light in recent years that link thimerosal to neurological disorders such as Autism, ADD/ADHD, and even asthma, and allergies. A few years ago, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention even ordered an immediate removal of thimerosal from routine childhood vaccinations as a safety precaution!! However, for reasons unknown, flu vaccinations are still made with thimerosal. Check out http://www.safeminds.org,
    http://www.generationrescue.org and the website for the National Autism Association to learn more about the potential dangers of thimerosal and other toxins in vaccines. Be informed and NEVER vaccinate your child if he or she is battling a virus or infection!