Ask Dr. Dina: Should my kids skip the flu shot?

Cold and flu season is here. Here's the best way to ward off the bugs.

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

I read the flu vaccine wasn’t that effective last year. Are my kids better off with a high–vitamin C diet?

There’s nothing more effective at preventing viral and bacterial infections than hand hygiene. That elevator button, laptop and washroom faucet likely have viruses and bacteria all over them—wash your hands many times a day. The more you model this behaviour, the more your kids will follow suit. Beyond that, the flu shot is a safe and easy way to stay healthy. Though influenza is often benign, it can cause severe illness, even death. The vaccine is recommended for kids from six months old and up, and is especially important for pregnant women.

Strains of the influenza virus are constantly changing, and scientists come up with a new vaccine formulation each year, based on which strains they believe will be the most prevalent. That can be hard to predict (last year’s vaccine had a 45 to 50 percent accuracy), but it’s worth it to get that added protection. While many parents prefer a nasal spray to a needle, I recommend getting the shot: There are fewer side effects, and it has been shown to be more effective.

Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys, who are five, three and 17 months. Send her your kids’ health questions at editors@todaysparent.com

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