Fathers, Families and the Flu

January 22, 2013

Fathers, have you or your child/children gotten your flu shot this year? If you didn’t know, the flu, or influenza, is a viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. The disease can spread from person to person and it has already swept the country this season.


According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is now considered "widespread" in 47 states and the percentage of Americans going to the hospital has doubled within the past month.


"I'm young and healthy," a father might say, "Why do I need the shot?" True, most people with seasonal flu are sick for about a week, and then they feel better. But, some people, especially young children, pregnant women, older people, and people with chronic health problems can get very sick. Each year in the U.S. an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized for flu-related complications.


The flu vaccine is, indeed, a good idea for all fathers and their families. A flu vaccine is the best way to protect your and your family from seasonal flu. Children are more likely to get the flu or have flu-related complications because their immune systems are still developing. In fact, a recent CDC study showed that treating children with the flu can be costly


Although infants younger than 6 months cannot get the vaccine, if the parents and older children in the household receive the vaccine, it will help protect the baby. This is important because infants are at high-risk for serious complications from the flu.


If an aversion to needles is keeping you or your child/children from getting the vaccination there is an alternative! In addition to the traditional kids' flu shot (injection), there is a nasal spray called FluMist that may be a particularly good option for children and adults who don't like needles.


You may need to call around to find the vaccine, since some vaccine providers may have exhausted their supplies, while others may have remaining supplies of vaccine.  However, it is worth the investment of time to do so.  Here is a helpful tool - the Flu Vaccine Finder.


For those of you who are asking, “Is it too late”? The answer is “No, it’s not too late to vaccinate”.  Remember, the flu is a serious illness and the season is likely to continue for several more weeks, so it’s important to take continued precautions.  Learn more at Flu.gov.


George L. Askew, M.D., serves as the first chief medical officer for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).  Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance also within the ACF.