EVERETT — Parents: Prepare for a big selling job, a pitch to make to your kids.
This year, there’s no FluMist , the flu vaccine administered through the nose.
So there’s only one option, getting a vaccine with the help of a sharp needle — the old fashioned flu shot.
“These are not conversations I’ve been looking forward to having,” said Dr. John Dunn, assistant medical director for preventative care at Group Health Cooperative.
Kids often have opted for the influenza nasal spray used in previous years, “in part because they get so panicked about needles,” he said.
But tests showed that the mist was ineffective in fighting off influenza viruses among children 2 to 17 years old during last year’s flu season. Federal health officials announced in June that the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used to battle flu this year.
In previous years, influenza nasal spray has been available to people from 2 and 49 years of age.
Nasal spray hasn’t been as effective as shots in protecting people from the flu for the past several years. No one knows why that’s happening, Dunn said.
It’s a surprising finding since nasal sprays traditionally have been thought to be just as effective as shots in flu prevention.
Flu shots are recommended for children beginning at six months of age. A newborn will need two doses a minimum of four weeks apart, he said. Children 8 and under only need one dose of vaccine if they’ve been given the flu vaccine at least twice since they were born.
Although the protection provided by the shot varies from year to year, “it’s the best we’ve got to help protect people against the flu,” Dunn said.
Many people mistake common fall and winter viruses for the flu. “Bona fide influenza is a really miserable disease,” Dunn said. Symptoms include fevers, body aches, headaches and nagging coughs.
“It lasts and lasts,” he said. It can take people several weeks to fully bounce back from the illness.
Although flu continues to circulate year-round, it typically hits hardest during December, January and February.
A few local patients already have tested positive for influenza, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, who tracks flu cases for The Everett Clinic.
The state has recorded its first flu death of the season, a man in his 50s from Spokane County.
This could be a year in which the A strain of the flu is most common. It tends to be more severe, particularly in older adults, Tu said.
There are ample supplies of flu vaccine this year. “Now’s the time to get vaccinated,” Tu said.
It takes about two weeks for the shot to become fully effective.
Parents can calm their kids’ worries over getting a shot by getting theirs first, Dunn said. But if they do, “they need to be absolutely stoic,” and not cringe and wince, he said.
Let them know “it’s important we do this and it hurts a little bit and then we’re all done,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to go
Flu vaccine is available at area pharmacies and medical clinics. More information on flu is available on the Snohomish Health District website: www.snohd.org.