Flu Shot Fears Debunked With Dr. Padder
It’s almost that time of year again: Flu season!
Though you may have “virus fatigue” (ahem, COVID-19), it’s essential not to skip out on your family’s rounds of the flu shot this year. We spoke to Columbia’s very own Dr. Edisa Padder on how to protect your kiddos during this upcoming flu season.
First things first… what’s the big deal?
According to Dr. Padder, we all became aware of how our lives were negatively impacted with the lack of just one vaccine back in 2020. When it comes to protection from the flu, getting the vaccine is the best defense for your kids.
“Children younger than five years of age are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications,” she says. “The flu shot can prevent ear infections, sinus problems, pneumonia, dehydration, brain infection and death.”
Who needs a flu shot?
The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age and older. The ideal time to get the flu vaccine is before the end of October, when the flu is predicted to start spreading.
Flu shot vs. nasal spray
Protection from the flu comes in two forms: the shot or nasal spray. The nasal spray tends to be an attractive option for kids (over the age of two), but Dr. Padder does note that its effectiveness tends to vary a little bit more season to season than the injectable counterpart.
“In my practice, I am not offering a nasal spray vaccine this year. However, the product is approved for use and I don’t want to discourage people against getting a nasal spray flu vaccine,” she says.
“The most important message I want to get across is to get the flu vaccine and be protected.”
She explains that all nasal spray flu vaccines for the 2020-2021 season are quadrivalent, meaning they are using four flu viruses: two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and two influenza B viruses. Dr. Padder shares three reasons she considers them to be tricky this year:
- Administration of nasal spray vaccine can be tricky in children who move a lot and don’t like the sensation of spray inside their nostrils.
- It’s a riskier procedure for the staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There are certain conditions that are contraindications for the use of nasal spray vaccine such as asthma, children younger than two, weaker immune system and many others.
Help! My kids are freaking out…
The key to preparing your child for a flu shot is to talk to them and explain what will happen, since children who understand the procedure will be less scared. You can help by reassuring your child that getting shots hurts, but that they’ll recover in less than a minute. Don’t forget to tell them how brave they are for protecting themselves as well as others, since vaccines save lives and kids love to do their part to keep everyone safe.
“For a very sensitive child or a child with special needs, there is a tool called Buzzy that uses vibration and temperature to distract the child from a painful procedure,” Dr. Padder says. “One of the strategies we use in my practice is counting down, so the medical assistant will count with a kid ‘5, 4, 3, 2,1 and done.’ Kids feel much better than this will be done in seconds.”
Flu shot myths, debunked
The most common myth Dr. Padder comes across is the concern that getting the flu shot will give your child the flu. What propels this myth? The flu shot contains a protein that trains our immune system to fight the flu virus. As a result of the “training to fight the disease,” we may get an immune response that includes body aches and fever. However, it’s short-lived and much better than getting the disease.
“The way I explain it to kids is that ‘The virus is chopped up and dead. It cannot give you the flu. It’s like saying I ate a chicken nugget and the chicken bit me,’” she says.
Long story short, Dr. Padder says:
“The flu shot will reduce the risk of dying and complications from influenza disease. It will not give you the flu!”
If you’re looking for a way to minimize contact and easily received your flu shot this year, the Howard County Health Department updates drive-thru vaccine clinics on its website.