School hallways are repopulating, temperatures are gradually dropping, and flu season is just around the corner. To help parents and children stay healthy this Fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued updated recommendations for the flu vaccine.
"Getting a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available in your community should be on every parent's checklist, along with other back-to-school routines," said Dr. Flor Munoz, co-author of the report.
"We know that the flu should not be taken lightly. Everyone in the household, including pregnant women, grandparents, and child care providers, should be vaccinated to help prevent its spread,” Munoz added.
Before flu season starts
In order to complete vaccination and provide protection before the flu season starts, the AAP recommends that all children ages 6 months and older get a flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
Kids who will be getting the vaccine for the first time need two doses at least four weeks apart. For optimal protection, the AAP says children should receive influenza vaccines by the end of October, if possible. Prime flu season is December, January, and February.
Pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should receive the flu vaccine to protect the mothers against infection and allow them to pass on antibodies to their fetuses for up to the first six months of life. Mothers who will be breastfeeding during flu season should also get a flu shot.
Needle-free option not recommended
Once again, the FluMist nasal vaccine is not recommended. Researchers discovered last year that the live attenuated intranasal influenza vaccine did not protect against H1N1 infections in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, and performed poorly against other strains.
For parents of children who may be scared to get stuck with a needle, there are ways to help manage pain.
First, be honest with your child. Don’t say the shot won’t hurt because kids will learn you are lying and you can lose their trust, says Dr. Margaret Fisher, recent chair of the Section of Infectious Diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Instead, say “Yes, it'll hurt, but just for a few seconds." To help ease the pain and anxiety when it’s shot time, distract your child by telling them to pretend to blow out birthday candles.
"It works every time," Dr. Hershel Lessin told Health.com. "Or I'll ask them to blow on a pinwheel."
When it’s over, put on your biggest smile to signal that they are all done. Consider offering them a reward for their bravery, such as a lollipop, sticker, or special activity.