We're already in the throes of flu season, although from the looks of Google Flu Trends (yes, that's a thing), we're experiencing low flu activity in the U.S. and Canada so far this year. That means it's not too late to get a flu shot for your kids, because they probably have not been exposed yet.

Here's what you need to know if you still need to get your kids vaccinated this year:

  • Kids ages 8 and younger who did not get at least one dose of the flu vaccine last year, or who are being vaccinated for the first time, need two shots about a month apart to be fully protected.
  • Children 6 months of age and older can get a flu shot; kids 2 and older can also get a nasal spray vaccine called FluMist.
  • It sometimes appears that the flu vaccine causes the flu; instead, what happens is that the vaccine can in some cases cause side effects very similar to the flu, but not as severe or as long-lasting.
  • There's no need to get a separate H1N1, or "swine flu" shot; this year's vaccine incorporates it.
  • Almost all the kids who died from the 2009 swine flu epidemic also had MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant form of staph infection. Experts are recommending that children be vaccinated to protect them, because MRSA is becoming more prevalent and can do much more harm to a sick child.
  • There are some children who should not get a flu shot: anyone with a severe allergy to eggs, anyone who has had a reaction to a previous flu shot, and anyone who had Guillain-Barre Syndrome after getting a flu shot. If your child has a fever or has recently had another vaccine, you should ask your doctor if delaying the vaccine is a good idea.
  • More than 36 percent of kids ages 6 months to 17 years got a flu shot before early November, which is up 3 percent from previous years.
  • Flu season runs from November to March ... getting a shot now will still protect your child for the bulk of the flu season. And flu can strike at any time of year.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks flu vaccine safety each year.

Have you already gotten your flu shot? Why or why not?


Image via woodleywonderworks/Flickr