Is it too late to get a 2022 flu shot? The experts say

Is it too late to get a 2022 flu shot?  The experts say

As headlines circulate about the “tridemic” of RSV, influenza and Covid-19, and RSV and flu outbreaks cause schools to close, it’s understandable to feel like you just can’t win on the disease front. The good news is that it’s not too late to get a flu shot — or your kids — to keep everyone safe this flu season.

In the US, flu season typically lasts through the fall and winter, December to February peak. You’ve probably wondered if you’re just more paranoid about viruses after the pandemic or if the flu really started earlier this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flu surveillance report says that “early increases in seasonal influenza activity continue across the country,” with the southern regions of the country being the hardest hit.

“The United States is experiencing the highest flu hospitalization rates in a decade for this time of year, according to the CDC,” he says. Dr Shalika Katugaha., medical director of Baptist Health’s Infectious Diseases system in Jacksonville, Florida. “There are numerous factors that contribute to severe flu season. We are reverting to pre-pandemic behaviors such as gathering together, returning to work and school in person, and ditching masks. Over the past two years, lockdowns and mask-wearing have not only slowed the spread of COVID-19, they have also slowed the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu. So as a community, we have less immunity to the flu.”

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So if flu season started early, does that mean it’s too late to get a flu shot now? Experts agree that it is never too late. (And even if you think it is, better late than never, right?)

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Is anyone expecting more shots these days? No. But doctors agree this one is worth getting.

“It’s not too late to vaccinate,” says Katugaha. “Please get your flu shot today. Flu season will continue through March, with cases beyond that. So you’ll still benefit from getting a vaccine now. Flu shots reduce the chance of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Flu shots reduce the chance of getting the flu. A large number of studies show that flu shots reduce flu-related doctor visits and work and school absences. Influenza vaccination is a priority, especially in the context of high rates of spread of respiratory viruses.”

“You can get a flu shot anytime it’s available,” Katie Lockwood, MD, M.ED, attending physician for CHOP’s primary care network in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, tells Romper. “We are still early enough in the flu season that getting vaccinated now will offer you protection against the flu.”

Flu symptoms in children this year

Every year the flu virus mutates and adapts (this is why we need a new vaccine every year). So what symptoms does this year’s flu virus cause?

“The predominant strain so far this year is H3N2, which can have associated vomiting and diarrhea,” says Lockwood. “However, not everyone will have the same symptoms when they get the flu. It can be hard to tell the flu from covid or even a common cold. High fever, severe headache, and diarrhea are more typical of the flu than a cold. Nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throat are more common from the flu than from covid.”

Generally common Flu symptoms they include fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, fever, and a runny or stuffy nose, according to the CDC. Katugaha notes that vomiting and diarrhea tend to be more common in children with the flu than in adults, and that children are often the ones who experience severe illness from the flu.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from the flu, so it’s very important to get your child vaccinated,” she says. “One study found that the flu vaccine reduces children’s risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by 75 percent. Another study found that flu shots cut flu-related emergency room visits in half in children.”

How to help your child get over the flu

As with any viral illness, your child’s body just needs time to fight off the flu virus. As your immune system goes about its business, there are many things you can do to help your little one feel better. Home remedies are the most helpful, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend giving children over-the-counter cough and cold medicines under 6.

“Keeping your child comfortable is important so they can maintain their hydration,” says Lockwood. “This may include the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever. Offer sips of fluids throughout the day and hydrate with popsicles and fluid-rich foods. Congestion and cough can be relieved with using nasal saline and bulb suctionhoney in a warm liquid if over 1 year old, steam showers and cool mist humidifiers.”

The flu vaccine is recommended for children 6 months and older, according to the AAP. You can make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to vaccinate him against the flu (or request it at an appointment you already have on the calendar). Or, if the whole family needs one, you can schedule flu shot appointments online at major pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.

Experts:

Dr Shalika Katugaha., medical director of the Baptist Health Infectious Diseases system in Jacksonville, Florida

Katie Lockwood, MD, M.ED, attending physician at CHOP Primary Care Network in Flourtown, Pennsylvania

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