As the 2016-2017 influenza (flu) season begins, it is important to be sure that your Head Start or early education and child care program is prepared. See the new AAP Patient Education Handout, “Seasonal Influenza (Flu)” as well as the Families Fighting Flu infographic, “Keep Your Family Healthy This Flu Season to Stay in the Game”.
It’s Time for Everyone to Get Their Flu Shot!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all people aged 6 months and older, especially those with certain chronic medical conditions, receive a flu vaccine each year.
Only flu shots, which can protect against either the 3 viruses (trivalent) or 4 viruses (quadrivalent) expected to circulate around the United States this flu season, are recommended this year. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against the same 3 viruses that are in the trivalent vaccine and adds in additional influenza B virus. The AAP does not have a preference for one type of flu shot over another. The important thing is to make sure everyone gets the flu vaccine.
Flu Viruses are Unpredictable.
Anyone, even healthy children and adults, can get very sick, need to be hospitalized, and even die from influenza. A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza infection. Vaccination of children reduces the spread of influenza in the community.
It is also important that all caregivers and staff be vaccinated against the flu each year. Children, especially those in child care or school settings, are more likely to get sick with flu and spread it to others. Children at high risk of flu complications include those younger than 5 years and children of any age with chronic health conditions, especially those with compromised immune systems. As a child care provider, please do whatever you can to encourage vaccination among students and staff. Vaccination of caregivers or teachers of students at high risk of serious flu complication is important in order to protect those children.
Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, so they need to be protected by vaccinating the people around them. Another important way to protect infants during their first six months of life is for a pregnant woman to get vaccinated. Influenza vaccination is recommended for all pregnant women during any trimester, as well as women who are breastfeeding or who plan to become pregnant during the influenza season. Besides protecting themselves, pregnant women pass their protection from the flu onto their newborns, who are protected for the first several months of life. As a caregiver of young children, you can help promote best practices by ensuring your center or program reminds parents that once their baby is 6 months old, they are eligible to receive a flu vaccine!
Misconceptions about the Flu Vaccine
A number of misconceptions about flu vaccines have emerged over the years, causing some people to avoid getting vaccinated. These range from questions about vaccine safety to concerns about vaccine effectiveness. One widely held misconception is that the flu vaccine can cause flu. In fact, flu vaccines cannot cause influenza; however, they can cause mild side effects in some people (body aches, injection site soreness, low grade fever). Additionally, it’s possible for adults to get influenza, or another virus that has similar symptoms, just after receiving the flu vaccine. It takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for protection to set in. See the CDC fact sheet “No More Excuses: You Need a Flu Vaccine” for more information.
Practice Proper Cough and Sneeze Etiquette
Staff members and children also should be taught to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or they should be encouraged to cough into their elbow or shoulder (i.e., not into their hands). After coughing/sneezing, everyone should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water. See the CDC handwashing presentation for additional details. Consider displaying educational materials in the Head Start or early education and child care program to encourage proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette. While everyday preventive actions are not a substitute for flu vaccination, they can help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses like flu.
Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide (4th Edition)
This AAP manual provides child care directors, teachers, and caregivers with important information about the prevention and management of infectious diseases in group care settings. The guide contains helpful reference guides, including quick reference sheets on prevention and infectious diseases. Detailed chapters address infection control measures, immunizations, and inclusion/exclusion criteria.