Linda Fu, MD, MS, a general pediatrician at Children’s National and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Hyunbo Holly Kim, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s National wrote for “Rise and Shine” that getting a flu shot might not be at the top of your mind these days, but with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, flu shots are more important than ever. To help you better understand why Drs. Linda Fu and Holly Kim answer some questions about the flu, the shot, and the relationship between flu and COVID-19.
Why should I get a flu shot this year?
While it has always been important for everyone ages 6 months and up to get the flu shot, it is arguably even more important this year given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Flu and COVID-19 cause similar symptoms and if your child is unlucky enough to catch both at the same time, they could have a worse course of the illness as their body tries to fight both. Besides both viruses causing lung issues and breathing problems, in rare cases, both the flu and COVID viruses can cause life-threatening, sudden heart attacks.
Another reason for your child to get the flu shot is to help them avoid trips to the doctor’s office. While doctor’s offices are cleaning more and using masks and gloves to keep you and your family safe, it may give you peace of mind to have fewer reasons to make a visit.
Lastly, by having large numbers of people protected against the flu from having had the shot, there will be fewer cases of flu in the community. This means there will be fewer demands on the healthcare system which will allow doctors and hospitals to focus their scarce resources on people who are very sick with COVID-19. This is what they have been already seeing in other countries such as Australia.
Can I get the flu if I get the flu mist?
This is a common myth. None of the flu vaccines, including the mist or spray, can give you the flu. Even though the nasal flu spray is a live vaccine, is designed to work only in the cooler temperatures of the nose and gets inactivated when it reaches the warmer temperatures of the lungs. Of course, no vaccine protects 100%, and the flu vaccine also cannot protect you against other viruses. People who end up catching a common cold or catching the flu after having gotten the flu vaccine often mistake their symptoms as having been caused by the vaccine. It’s important to note that even though the flu vaccine can’t protect 100% against catching the flu, it still makes your symptoms less severe and shorter than if you didn’t get the vaccine.
Post photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
Blog photo custosy of the CDC