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Flu Season: How to Protect Your Family From the Flu

Updated: Apr 18

Many of you are wondering if the cold and flu season will be worse than in previous years and if we are more vulnerable. The simple answer is yes; the Flu is back in 2022. Our Paediatrician expert Dr Lexi Frydenberg gives us the low down on what we need to know about this year's Flu season and how to protect ourselves.


The preventive measures we used over the last two years to stop the spread of COVID-19 (physical distancing, mask-wearing, isolation) also helped stop the spread of other viral infections, such as influenza, and we saw very few cases of Flu in 2020 and 2021 in Australia.


This means that we have lower levels of immunity in the community, and our

young children, in particular, may not have been exposed to the flu virus before.


Now with COVID restrictions relaxed and international borders opening, Infectious Disease and Public Health experts are predicting this will be a bumper year for Influenza and we have already started seeing cases of flu in both children and adults this year.


What is influenza

Influenza (or "the flu") is a viral infection that mainly affects the respiratory system (airways). It is highly contagious and spread through sneezing and coughing. It can also spread through contaminated surfaces. Influenza affects people of all ages, including children, who are more likely to be infected than adults.


Although usually a mild disease, causing fever, dry cough, nasal congestion, headache, sore throat, general fatigue & muscle aches and pains- It can also cause serious illness in otherwise healthy kids- leading to hospitalisation and even death.


Influenza prevention

The Flu Vaccine remains the best defence from influenza and its complications. Yearly influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone, including pregnant women and children aged > 6 months.


Vaccinating pregnant women provides protection to mothers and their newborn infants. (Remember, you can have the vaccination at any time of year and at any stage in pregnancy)


Yearly Flu Vaccine is funded (free) under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for those at risk of severe influenza. These include:

· Pregnant women

· Children aged 6 months-5 years

· People with specified chronic medical conditions

· All Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders > 6 months

· Adults >65 yrs old.


Even though it is not funded for everyone, it is still highly recommended and available at low cost from GP or pharmacy (if >10 yrs age)


Flu Vaccine facts

· NOW is a good time to have your flu vaccine as it can take up to 2 weeks to develop antibodies and for your immune system to be ready to fight the flu virus

· Influenza vaccines CAN be given on the same day/time as the COVID-19 vaccine

· If you have recently had COVID infection, you can have the flu vaccine once your acute symptoms settle

· The flu vaccine IS NOT a LIVE vaccine so you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine

(A small number of children will experience side effects such as fever, headache which can mimic flu symptoms but these are usually mild and get better in a few days)

· The flu virus changes each year (mutates), and that is why the vaccine is usually updated each year, depending on the circulating strains

· The highest level of protection occurs in the first 3-4 months after vaccination (although it is generally expected to last throughout the year) – flu usually peaks in Australia in June-Sep each year

· You CAN have the flu vaccine, even if you have Egg allergies -the egg-based influenza vaccines only contain tiny traces of egg protein so people with egg allergies, including anaphylaxis, can be safely vaccinated with influenza vaccines- speak to your GP or immunisation provider if your child does have an egg allergy


If you would like more information, we have a recent RCH

Kids Health Info Podcast Episode:

or wherever you like to listen to Podcasts

As always, if you found this podcast helpful, please leave a review so that other families can find out about it.


To learn about common medical conditions for the early years purchase our Parents You've Got This Parenting Portal and watch videos from Dr Lexi Fridenberg our Pediatrician Expert.


Resources:

https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Influenza_(flu)_vaccine/


Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute advice provided by your doctor or other healthcare professionals. The author of this information has made a considerable effort to ensure the information is in-line with current guidelines, codes and accepted clinical evidence at time of writing, is up-to-date at time of publication and relevant to Australian readers. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this article reflects the view of the author only and not the broader medical profession or her places of work. The author accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in this information.  We recommend you always consult a qualified health practitioner for individualised advice.


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