written by Ryan Bell, MD, pediatrician, Treehouse Pediatrics

Influenza season has arrived in Cache Valley, along with the annual question from your doctor: “Would you like a flu vaccine today?”

I have this discussion with patients numerous times every day during this time of year, and would like to make a few points of observation and education that hopefully will be helpful as you make this decision for yourself and your children.

There are three widespread misunderstandings about the flu shot I would like to address:

Common viral stomach infections are often referred to as “the stomach flu,” but are not the influenza virus.

If your child is vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, fever, and/or mild to moderate stomach discomfort, this is not a case of influenza and YES, they should still get a flu vaccine for the present flu season. Along the same lines, even with the vaccine, you may still get other infections.

You cannot and will not get the “flu” from a flu shot.

Some people have a mild, short lived immune response to the vaccine that may include a mild fever or muscle aches. This immune response can be addressed adequately (if it occurs at all) with several doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and is much more tolerable than the symptoms that come with an actual influenza infection.

You no longer need to avoid flu vaccines if you have egg allergies.

The Center for Disease Control updated guidelines several years ago and recommends all persons with an egg allergy to get a flu vaccine. If you have a severe allergy, you should remain at the doctor’s office for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine to ensure no worrisome response takes place.

Flu infections are miserable! If a patient ever says, “I feel like I want to die,” influenza is the most likely diagnosis, and often lasts a solid week.

I cared for a healthy 13-year-old boy, during my residency in North Carolina, who died from an influenza infection. This comes to mind as parents refuse vaccines, often based on misunderstandings or not wanting to cause a child the temporary discomfort of a shot. Thousands of people in the United States die every year from influenza, especially in higher risk groups, including children younger than 2, adults over 65, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

Please help protect your family, and all of our families, by getting vaccinated against influenza. Even during flu seasons when the shot is not a great match for the circulating strain of influenza (like last year), getting a vaccine is still the best way to avoid getting the infection, and if you do, your symptoms should be lessened because you have prepared your body’s defense mechanisms the best way possible to get through it in good shape.

Visit www.cdc.gov or a medical professional for more information.