As a mother of two boisterous and growing children, my paediatrician is my ‘go-to’ for all my queries. I prefer going to the doctor and getting the correct information about my ailing kids rather than Googling the information. Well, once I did try to search for the symptoms and associated cause, let me tell you, it left me more confused and worried than ever.
There are several occasions where I have seen the children around me hit by Influenza. Fortunately, my children never contracted it. My paediatrician had advised me to take flu shots for the entire family at the right time. As a result, we have never had to go through the harrowing experience of managing flu for ourselves or our kids.
When all is going well, one takes life for granted. I was unaware of the importance of spreading the word about Influenza vaccines. Mainly because I wasn’t aware of how harmful a bout of flu could be for people around me. Thanks to the meet on #MomVsFlu I got to attend, I am more flu alert!
Influenza vaccines, also known as flu shots or flu jabs, are vaccines that protect against infection by Influenza viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends yearly vaccination for nearly all people over the age of six months, especially those at high risk which includes pregnant women, the elderly, children between six months and five years of age, those with other health problems, and those who work in healthcare.
What is flu and how is it different from a common cold?
Flu and common cold are caused by viruses. Flu symptoms can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder versions of the symptoms of flu. People with cold are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.
Children below 5 years and pregnant women are at a high risk of contracting influenza infection.
Usually, we ignore health issues and avoid going to the doctor:
In a country like ours, we have so many lines of treatment right from Dadimaa ke nuske to Vaidya/Hakim ka ilaaj and the biggest one is Ghar ka ilaaj that comes out of an experience. Do these work? Well, not always. There is a merit that must be accorded the science of medicine and the experience of doctors. I always prefer to take medical advice rather than go for treatments that don’t have scientific backing.
Coming back to flu& flu vaccines, there are so many myths associated with this. Sharing a few here:
Myth 1: I can get flu if I take the flu vaccine
Fact: It is not true that the flu shot can give you a flu. Some people taking the vaccine may get a little redness or soreness in the area where the shot is given, but it usually goes away within a day or two. Complications from the flu shot are very rare.
Myth 2: The flu vaccine doesn’t work
Fact: Most of the time the flu vaccine will prevent flu. Getting a vaccine is the best protection against this illness.
Myth 3: You can skip years between vaccinations
Fact: Most vaccines are given once and protect you for a lifetime. The flu vaccine isn’t like that. This is because flu strains change every year. You will have to get the flu vaccine yearly.
Myth 4. Only kids and elderly need to get vaccinated.
Fact 4: Everyone should get the vaccines. Although young, healthy individuals will probably bounce back from flu why should you suffer when you can avoid it? If you get the flu, your near and dear ones may also catch it from you. By getting a flu vaccine, you protect yourself and others around you.
Myth 5: The flu is annoying but harmless
Fact 5: A lot of people think of the flu as being just a bad cold, but it is much worse than that. There have been cases of hospitalisation and even death from influenza.
I got to attend a session, #MomVsFlurecently. To begin with, I was thrilled to see my dear friend and famous gynaecologist, Dr.Mukesh Gupta as part of the panel. Dr. Gupta and his wife have been pillars of support to my family for over 6 years now. They have hand held us through health issues and offered guidance, support and counselling purely out of the goodness of their heart.
Dr.MukeshGupta, in his classic, humorous style simplified and explained the harm caused by flu and enlightened us on how flu can be prevented by getting vaccinated at the right time. Using an interesting play of words, he remarked, “Vaccine is less painful than waxing. Get it done at the right time to live a healthy and happy life.”
Dr. Gupta highlighted, “Influenza and common cold are similar but not the same.”
He insisted on preconception vaccine for pregnant mothers inorder to ensure a healthy baby. While saying this, he reiterated the fact that the vaccine is absolutely safe for an expecting mother. According to him, the best time to take the flu vaccine is just before school reopens. He endorsed Samuhik Vaccination whereby the entire family including caretakers get vaccinated so that everyone remains protected from influenza.
Dr. Gupta is a Gynecologist/ Obstetrician, practicing in Mumbai. He holds a rich experience of 16 years in his field. He has been awarded the ‘Emerging Star of Medicine’ by Indian Medical Association MWSB in 2011.
Along with Dr. Gupta, I had the opportunity to hear some words of wisdom from the famous paediatrician, Dr. Uday Ananth Pai.
Here are some important points he stressed on:
- We assume, “I’m healthy and I won’t catch a cold or influenza.”: this is not true. Everyone is susceptible and our body is exposed to many risks on a daily basis.
- Good school may have air conditioning, but one infected child may spread flu to others. So any child may get influenza.
- You yourself can give your child a flu! So, moms, please get yourself vaccinated.
- Vaccines may take 4 to 6 weeks to develop complete immunity in your body, so you must take it before any epidemic like swine flu breaks out.
- “April, May, June is the best period to take influenza vaccination for children and whole family for complete prevention against flu”
- Babies and pregnant women have a higher risk of influenza bouts and hence prevention is the best option and vaccination should be considered.
Dr.Pai is a paediatrician (MD, DCH Distinction) with 29 years of work experience in strategy and business development, consulting, research and analytics, project management and developing strategies for global pharmaceutical, healthcare and nutrition businesses and products.
Listening to celebrity mom, Genelia Deshmukh was an enlightening experience. It told me that anyone could be affected with influenza. Genelia emphasized the importance of aligning with the doctor for all health-related issues.
Genelia shared how she was a nervous wreck while bringing up her first child and, later for her second one, she was more confident and informed. I could totally relate my experiences to hers. I was a nervous first mom and later, transformed into super confident mother with the birth of my second child.
Genelia is a mother of two and shared her experiences by emphasizing the importance of Influenza vaccine. She said, “We must realise that common cold and influenza are different but lead to lot of discomfort to the affected.” She encouraged mothers to meet the gynaecologist and paediatrician regularly so that the queries are addressed correctly. She also said, “Many times we hear parents boasting about how they never got their child vaccinated and despite that the child is fine. I want to highlight that its probably because everyone around the child has got vaccinated thus spreading immunity.”
Genelia encouraged mothers to be Warriors, not Worriers, this is possible only if one is armed with the right information.
There are several sources on the internet that will give you more information about influenza and the vaccine. However, I found that the MAI website the most credible source for more information. Here is the link: http://www.mothersagainstinfluenza.in/
Vaccinating Doctors can be found in every locality with a simple search by a pincode. In case, one is looking for a doctor, here is a simple way to find Doctors who vaccinate: http://www.mothersagainstinfluenza.in/doctor-list.html
I completely agree and endorse Genelia’s point about mothers turning from Worriers to Warriors. As mothers, we must fight all worries related to babies suffering from Flu by becoming more Flu and vaccination aware.
Hoping that you found this post useful. Do leave a comment in the comment section and tell me about your experiences with flu and the flu vaccine.
Disclaimer:I attended a discussion on influenza awareness facilitated by Abbott India
Limited. Any opinion expressed in this blog is my personal opinion and not the opinion of Abbott India Limited. Abbott India Limited does not assume any liability for the content of the blog. The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for babies having Influenza. Any reader of this blog or their family members suffering from Influenza should specifically consult his/her doctor for the same and follow the suggested course of treatment.