by Ann Douglas
Here's what you need to know to protect yourself and your baby from influenza, an illness that can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia.
The CDC: The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu.
Public Health Agency of Canada recommends flu shots for everyone age 6 months or older, unless they have a medical reason for not having the shot.
The flu shot is not recommended for individuals who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or egg products; who have known allergies to preservatives such as Thimerosal, Formaldehyde, or Neomycin, depending on the flu vaccine being administered; or who have had a previous proven reaction to a an earlier flu shot.
Flu shots are particularly important for women who are pregnant during flu season. Researchers estimate that if every pregnant woman had a flu shot, hospitalizations during pregnancy could be reduced by a rate of 1 to 2 hospitalizations per 1000 pregnant women.
Flu shots are recommended for children six months of age and older. Babies and toddlers face an increased risk of hospitalization due to influenza and related complications. They also tend to be in contact with large numbers of other young children once they start daycare or begin participating in playgroups or other parent-and-tot activities, something that can allow the influenza virus to spread quickly and easily from contact to contact.
The flu shot reduces your risk of becoming ill by 70 to 90 percent. If all members of a household are vaccinated, fever and illness symptoms can be reduced by up to 80 percent. In other words, if you do contract the flu, you won't become nearly as sick.
There are other things you can do to avoid getting sick (or spreading illness to an elderly individual or someone with a compromised immune system).
- Stay out of coughing and sneezing range of people who really should have stayed home.
- Teach your kids the art of sneezing (cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when they sneeze, dispose of the tissue properly, and wash their hands with soap and warm running water) or, f you think they'll scrimp on the hygiene, sneeze or cough into their upper sleeve.
- Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer (gel or wipes) with you at work, home, and in the car; and consider donating a container to playgroup, daycare, or other locations where your kids will be, to encourage hand hygiene.
- Keep your kids (or yourself) home when you're sick with influenza. You need rest and other people don't need your germs.
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.
Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.