Preparing for Flu Season
The CDC recommends some basic steps to prevent the flu, including:
- Getting a flu vaccine.
- Learning to prevent the spread of germs, including proper handwashing, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, avoiding people who are obviously sick, and covering your cough, etc.
- Practicing good health habits, such as getting a good night's sleep, staying physically active, eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of liquids, and managing stress.
- Take antiviral drugs when your doctor prescribes them.
Getting a flu vaccine should be easy this year.
Last year, about 165 million doses of flu vaccine were available, which is more than has ever been produced before. That should have been enough to give a flu vaccine to everyone who needed or wanted a one, and in fact, many doses went unused.
Hopefully there won't be any shortages, delays, or surprises this year and since we again have a plentiful supply of flu vaccine, everyone should be able to get a flu vaccine this year - the best way to prevent flu.
New Flu Vaccine Recommendations
There aren't any big changes to the flu recommendations for the 2013-2014 flu season. Like last year, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now recommends that everyone over the age of six months get an annual flu vaccine.
When Should Your Child Get a Flu Shot?
In the past few years, because of the shortages and delays, you didn't have much choice over when you could get your kids vaccinated. Most parents simply tried to get their kids vaccinated as soon as they could.
When there's a ready supply of flu vaccine, as there was last year and there is predicted to be this season, you'll want to get your child vaccinated before flu season starts or as early as possible during flu season. You could get your flu vaccine at any time, but the later you wait, the greater the risk that your child will catch the flu before he is protected by his flu vaccine. Keep in mind that a typical flu season usually begins in December, peaks in February, and may continue until March.
The CDC used to recommend that children and teens should get their flu shot in September, but now recommends that everyone get vaccinated as soon as the flu vaccine becomes available.
Ideally, if they don't get a flu vaccine in September, children should begin getting their flu shots by October or November.
Since flu season has already started, with many areas seeing an increase in flu activity, now is a great time to get a flu shot if you haven't gotten one yet.
Where to Get the Flu Shot
Your pediatrician's office is likely the best place to get your child's flu shot. But since many parents had problems finding flu shots for their kids in recent years, you might ask your pediatrician about his flu vaccine supply and immunization policy early on.
If you are interested in getting your older child FluMist (to avoid a shot) or the preservative-free flu vaccine (to avoid thimerosal), you should also ask if your pediatrician will have them -- not all doctors do.
For more information, please visit our guide to Kids and the Flu.
Updated for the 2013-2014 flu season.
CDC. Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – United States, 2013-14, MMWR 2013, September 20, 2013 / 62(RR07);1-43