Guest article by Laura Scott, Executive Director, Families Fighting Flu
The start of a new school year is busy with parent-teacher conferences, soccer games, homework, and orchestra practice. But as the days get shorter and the air turns crisp, it’s no surprise that you’re now seeing information about the availability of influenza vaccinations in your community. Please don’t ignore these very important reminders.
Influenza, often referred to as the flu, is a serious and highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) that is often confused with the common cold. Flu symptoms tend to develop quickly (usually one to four days after a person is exposed to the virus) and are more severe than the common cold. While influenza is a serious disease for everyone, it is of particular concern for children of all ages, including not only those with underlying medical conditions, but also those who are healthy. Because children’s immune systems have been exposed to a lesser number of pathogens than adults, they are typically the “spreaders” of viruses, such as influenza.
As the mother of two girls, ages 9 and 7, I ensure they are protected against this potentially deadly disease every year. In fact, everyone in my family receives an annual influenza vaccination as soon as it becomes available in our area — no questions asked; it’s just something we do every year, just like we decorate the house for the holidays.
I know the devastating effects of influenza all too well because of my role as executive director of Families Fighting Flu, a national, non-profit organization comprised mainly of families whose children have suffered serious medical complications or died from influenza, as well as other advocates and healthcare professionals committed to flu prevention. Together, we work to increase awareness about the seriousness of the disease and are committed to educating about the importance of annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older, as per guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I’m so excited about a new partnership we’ve developed this year with Healthy Schools LLC to bring school-located influenza vaccination clinics to more than 200,000 elementary through high school students in Florida as well as valuable resources for schools to educate parents about the critical need for annual influenza vaccination. Recent studies demonstrate that school-located influenza vaccination clinics help reduce the spread of the virus within a community. By vaccinating a larger number of children, flu transmission rates drop, vulnerable populations within the community, both young and old, are better protected and the risk for further complications, such as hospitalizations or even death, decreases. For parents and children, these school-located clinics are a convenient, quick and simple way to be vaccinated. They also reduce potential absenteeism from both school and work.
Annual influenza vaccination is the best preventative measure available to protect yourself and your family from this serious and potentially deadly disease. Whether your child is vaccinated at school or at another location, such as the pediatrician’s office or local pharmacy, please just ensure your family is vaccinated as soon as possible.
Visit FamiliesFightingFlu.org for educational resources about the importance of flu prevention, a locator to find pharmacies or other places to receive the influenza vaccine in your area, and the latest news and information about this flu season.
Flu facts: Educate yourself about influenza
- Children miss more than 38 million days of school each year due to influenza.
- Adults and children can spread the flu before they feel sick and even after they feel better.
- On average each year, more than 20,000 children are hospitalized and 100 children die due to influenza.
- Typically, flu season begins in October and can last as late as May, with January and February being peak months.
- Flu symptoms usually include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms in children.