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Donna Lazorik Pic Posted by Donna Lazorik, RN, MS. Donna is the Immunization Coordinator in the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your children. Buckle them up in the car. Watch them closely when they’re in the water. Teach them to look both ways when they cross the street. Warn them not to talk to strangers. 

How about also making sure they get a flu vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. That includes children from tiny to teen.

Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. For children younger than 5 years of age and those with certain chronic health conditions, like asthma and diabetes, getting a flu vaccine is especially important to avoid serious flu complications like pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalization and even death. About 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized each year from flu complications. The flu can also make some health conditions worse.

There are two kinds of flu vaccine available for children: the regular flu shot and a nasal spray flu vaccine, which is for healthy children 2 years of age and older. Talk to your child’s doctor if you have questions about which type of vaccine your child should receive.

Flu vaccines cannot give you the flu because they are made from killed or weakened influenza viruses. Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines and most people generally do not experience any side effects after being vaccinated. When side effects do occur, they are generally mild and include redness and soreness at the injection site for the flu shot, and occasionally sore throat, runny nose and rarely fever after the nasal spray vaccine. While these symptoms can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, they are mild and resolve quickly when compared to a bad case of the flu.

Call your health care provider to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated or search for a public flu clinic online at http://www.mylocalclinic.com. For more information visit www.mass.gov/flu

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