Hylton I Lightman MD DCH(SA) FAAP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people ages 6+months should receive the flu vaccine.

In other words, this includes babies, toddlers, school age children, adolescents, young adults, pregnant adults, middle-aged adults and older adults.

Why is the flu vaccine important for your children and you and your loved ones?

Let’s discuss the flu.

Also known as influenza, the flu is a serious respiratory virus that causes the sudden onset of symptoms like fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, and overall fatigue. It can be confused with the common cold which is caused by other respiratory viruses. However, the flu can potentially lead to serious health complications because it can reduce the body’s ability to fight off other infections such as, for example, the viruses that cause pneumonia. Dehydration is not uncommon because being sick can cause lethargy and lack of appetite and desire to drink. The flu can also aggravate existing conditions such as triggering asthma attacks.

Influenza or the flu can, G-d forbid, lead to death.

Last year’s flu season (2018-2019), according to the CDC, was “moderately severe.” The season commenced in October and ran through May yet began growing in November while peaking in February. This 21-week span means it was the longest flu season in 10 years.

The CDC believes that this year’s flu strain is especially virulent. This is fact – The first pediatric death due to the flu already happened in September in California. The CDC reports there was a second death several days ago. Because these tragedies unfolded so early in the season, it should warn us as to what might be ahead. So it’s prudent to take preventative action.

Yes, this is meant to propel you to making sure you and your children get the flu vaccine.

Further, CDC and other health officials often look to the flu season in Australia for harbingers of what may come here. The winter season has concluded Down Under where they experienced an early flu season. The influenza strain H3N2 dominated and was particularly nasty. Australia’s Department of Health announced that flu activity was higher this season than past seasons. 93% of cases reported were Influenza A.

Recent research has borne out the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine.

It prevents severe flu in older adults and lowers admissions to the hospital (where germs abound). It reduces hospitalization rates for children seriously sick with the flu by 60%. It decreases flu rates in children under 7 months of age when Mom received the vaccine when pregnant.

Combine vaccinating with the flu vaccine with some creative kinds of behavior modification in order to best keep the beast of the flu at bay.

Some suggestions:

  • Cover your moth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact with any person who is sick
  • Stay home for a minimum of 24 hours if you have flu-like symptoms
  • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands
  • Clean communal surfaces at least once daily
  • Ask your schools to clean bathrooms, faucets and doorknobs frequently. Start a trend by sending Chaim or Elianna to school with Lysol wipes.
  • Don’t share food with infected people
  • Separate the family toothbrushes so germs don’t spread (this is a good practice 365 days a year)
  • Wash your hands with soap especially when coming into your home from school, work or any group situation
  • Wear disposable gloves when caring for someone who is sick
  • Smile and laugh – Just do it because it can boost your immune system
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Rest if you feel tired

There is no way we can create sterile bomb shelters in which to hide from the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is the place to start. Then be vigilant.

Perhaps our collective efforts will make this year’s flu season into much ado about nothing.

As always, daven.

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