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Public Health Column for the Times-News

A chance your child shouldn't miss

Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By KIM HORTON
Times-News Columnist

As a parent, I always felt helpless when my child was sick.

Not only was he miserable, but the amount of school work he would miss could really add up. But one action I always took was to make sure that he received the flu vaccine each year.

I knew how hard flu could hit — fever, chills, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and fatigue —and I didn’t want to risk his health.

A flu vaccine is still the best way to protect against the flu. Studies show that annual flu vaccination for students keeps them from missing valuable school days, which in turn, helps children, parents, schools and communities stay healthy. That’s why the Department of Public Health and Henderson County Public Schools are once again offering flu vaccine to students and staff in all 23 schools during the school day throughout October.

“Parents who get their children vaccinated can rest a little easier knowing they are helping to protect their family against an illness that can have serious complications,” said School Nurse Supervisor Kim Berry. “I hope that parents will take this opportunity to protect their children from the flu this season.”

Vaccinating your child against flu is the first action every parent should take to fight the flu. And it’s so easy for parents to do this, thanks to the partnership between the health department and the school system. All that is involved on your part is making sure a permission form is completed and returned to your child’s school before the school’s clinic. No missed school for your child. No missed work for you.

Please note that for this year’s Flu Vaccine School Site Immunization Initiative, only the flu injection (shot) will be offered. The CDC recommends that the nasal spray flu vaccine not be used during 2016-2017. If your child is hesitant about receiving the injection, Berry recommends talking to your child ahead of time about the procedure.

“I would tell the child that it’s OK to not like shots,” said Berry. “I would say that getting a shot can hurt a little, but the pain goes away. I would also tell them that the arm might be sore and look red at the injection site. But I also would remind them that the shot will help keep them healthy.”

Why is vaccination so important? Flu is a dangerous illness —more dangerous than the common cold for children.

It’s unpredictable and seasons vary in severity. What is predictable, however, is that every year children get sick with seasonal flu, and some of those illnesses result in death.

Since the 2004-2005 flu season, flu-related deaths in children reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during regular flu seasons have ranged from 37 deaths (2011-2012) to 171 deaths (2012-2013). Data indicate that among children six months and older, 80-85 percent of flu-related deaths occurred in children who have not received a flu vaccine. During 20152016, some reported flu-associated deaths occurred in children who had an underlying medical condition that placed them at high risk of developing serious flu complications, but about 60 percent were otherwise healthy. But there’s more than just vaccination in fighting the flu. The second action in fighting the flu is to stop germs. This means taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. Remind your children to:

■ Avoid close contact with sick people

■ Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and throw the tissue in the trash

■ Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds

■ Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, which can spread germs

■ Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu

Finally, if you or your child gets the flu, take the antiviral drugs that can be prescribed by your health care provider. These drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a highrisk health condition or is very sick from the flu.

But let’s return to this opportunity you don’t want your child to miss —flu vaccine immunization. You may have already received the letter and parent permission form sent home with your student. A School Messenger alert will notify you with the date of the flu clinic for your child’s school.

If for some reason, you didn’t receive the letter and permission form, go to hendersoncountyflu. org. You will find the parent/guardian permission forms, the Notice of Privacy statement, Vaccine Information Statements and the schedule of school immunization clinic dates. It’s important to send a completed permission form back to your child’s school quickly. Flu vaccine will be given by school nurses to only those students who have completed parent permission forms.

If you have questions, feel free to contact the Henderson County Department of Public Health at 828-694-6018 or 828-694-6062, or your child’s health care provider.


Kimberly Horton is the communications manager at the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at khorton@hendersoncountync.org.

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