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Is it too late for kids to get the flu shot?

Short answer: No. But in case you're unsure, mama, here's why.

Is it too late for kids to get the flu shot?

As we head into the peak of flu season, doctors' waiting rooms are filled with children suffering from high fevers, body aches and cough. Wait times are increasing and reported cases of the flu are rising.

As a parent, you may be wondering: "Is it too late for the flu shot?" Since you've waited this long, should you rush out to get your child vaccinated now, or hold off and just ride out the rest of the season?

As a pediatrician, I recommend getting your family vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible. But there are still things to consider when making the decision for your family. So let's take a look and weigh both sides of the great debate.

Is it ever too late for your child to get a flu shot?

Reasons to get the flu vaccine ASAP

You've probably heard about the coronavirus and RSV outbreaks this flu season. These epidemics have become a focus in recent news. But even though these viruses are scary with sometimes frightening statistics, the numbers don't compare to the flu.

In the United States alone from October 2019 to mid-January 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 15-20 million people have been infected with the flu. Hospitalizations due to complications of the flu number from 140,000–250,000. And there have been 8,200–20,000 influenza-related deaths.

As a pediatrician, I stress to you that the best protection against the flu is the flu shot.

Here are 5 reasons to make an appointment today:

1. You can get the flu outside of "flu season."
The reality is, you can get the flu any time during the year. As doctors, we recommend you get the flu vaccine in late September because the flu season starts in October.

However, flu season peaks in February. With the start of the new year, the amount of reported cases of the flu continues to rise. And we predict it will continue to rise into February and March. We will probably continue to treat cases into May.

2. The flu peaks again in spring.
It takes an average of 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective. Even though the flu season is estimated to peak soon, the season is not officially over until May. Getting your child vaccinated now will help protect them against the flu season's second peak in early spring.

3. The shot can lessen the symptoms later on.
I believe that some protection is better than no protection. Influenza is most dangerous for the younger population and the elderly. There are many dangerous and even fatal complications from the influenza virus. So getting your child vaccinated now is the best way to protect them from getting the flu and to help lessen the severity of flu symptoms.

4. You can get the flu vaccine without a shot!
As a pediatrician, I know the importance of protecting ourselves against influenza. As a mother, I dread the tears and drama vaccinations cause. But there's another option this year!

After some time off the market, the nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, is once again being offered to children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) previously questioned how well the spray worked for children. However, with recent improvements to the mist, the CDC and AAP now say parents can choose the best option for their little ones—shots or spray.

5. The flu shot builds herd immunity.
Children under the age of 6 months cannot get the flu shot, however, they have the highest risk of complications if they get sick with the flu. So if you have other children in the house who go to school, it is imperative you get them vaccinated to protect your infant as much as possible.

In addition, research shows newborns and infants get some protection from the flu if their mothers get a flu shot while pregnant.

Reasons to exercise caution with the flu vaccine

Unfortunately, I see firsthand the complications and secondary infections influenza causes. So I'm almost always 100% on board with getting vaccinated. While I understand the importance of protecting our children from influenza by vaccinating them, there are some important things to consider before you just dive right in.

1. You're at risk in the waiting room.
We are in the peak months of flu season. So when you take your child to the pediatrician to get the flu shot, there is a higher risk they will be exposed to the flu in the waiting room.

If you're going to go to your pediatrician to get the flu shot, call ahead and see if you can make a nursing appointment, or make the first available appointment of the day. I can't tell you how many children go to the doctor to get their flu shot and catch something else while they are waiting to be seen.

Another important thing to note is if your child has never gotten the flu shot before and is under the age of 9, they are going to need to receive two separate shots of the vaccine, which means not one, but two chances of getting sick in the waiting room!

2. There are no guarantees vaccine will prevent the flu.
Depending on the vaccine given for the season, you are protected against 3-4 strains of the influenza virus. Therefore, although the vaccine lowers your chance of getting the virus, it does not guarantee you will be immune to the flu.

Yes, that's right. You can still get the flu even if you got a flu shot!

It's a bummer but that's part of the game each year. We can't protect against every strain of the flu. So we have to pick which strains appear to be the worst each season and protect the masses against those strains.

But if your child got the flu shot and still ends up with the flu, chances are the severity of symptoms and the duration of the illness will likely be lessened.

My best advice is that if your child had the flu shot but shows symptoms of the flu, have them evaluated by their pediatrician. It could still be the flu.

3. The aftermath can be tough for kiddos.
The injection itself can cause a lot of tenderness to the area where the shot was given. It's mostly a slight irritation, but kids tend to exaggerate and be dramatic about the pain sometimes.

You can lightly massage the area for an hour after the injection. It significantly decreases the pain to that area. If your toddler or child received their vaccination in their thigh, walking for a while afterwards also seems to lessen the irritation later.

Also, don't be too alarmed, but your child may experience mild flu-like symptoms after receiving the vaccination, especially with the FluMist.

So, should you take your child for a flu shot now, or not?

As long as people are still getting the flu, it's not too late to get vaccinated. While my short answer is always going to be, "There's no better time than NOW to get the flu shot!" it's definitely a personal decision you need to make for your family. Weigh all your options, speak with your child's doctor and take all the possibilities of this debate into consideration to come to the conclusion that works best for you and your children.

These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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