Preparing for a healthy return to school

As summer draws to a close and fall approaches, the rush of back-to-school preparations for kids begins. Parents may have questions about the upcoming cold and flu season and the best way to keep kids healthy in the classroom. The good news is that vaccinations are available now and are by far the most effective way to help protect children from respiratory diseases, like flu. Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, and getting your child a flu vaccine can go a long way toward creating healthier classrooms and communities. In fall, a new COVID-19 vaccine will also be available to help protect your child.

It’s important to remember last fall and winter we saw a co-circulation of flu, COVID-19, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and other viral and bacterial respiratory diseases. Schools faced high absenteeism, and many kids were hospitalized. Although flu vaccines don’t always prevent flu illness, they reduce the wildest symptoms, decreasing missed school, work and other important activities.

Sadly, disappointing flu vaccination rates help feed the spread of illness. Flu vaccination among kids is down by about 5 percentage points since the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to reverse that trend to keep our kids and classrooms healthy this winter.

Fight influenza with a flu vaccine

A flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Among the many benefits, flu shots reduce the risk of flu illness and hospitalization, but if you still get sick, a flu vaccine can reduce the wildest flu symptoms, making the illness milder and shorter. Flu can be very serious for children, and a flu shot has been shown to protect against flu and its potentially serious outcomes.

Most children will need only one dose of a flu shot every year. September and October are the ideal times to get a flu shot. However, if your child is seeing their doctor in August (for example, for a back-to-school visit), they can get vaccinated then if they might not return for a flu shot later in the fall. It’s better to get a flu shot early rather than miss getting vaccinated. Getting a flu shot later can still be beneficial even into January or later.

Some children may need two doses of a flu shot, including children 6 months through 8 years old who get a flu shot for the first time. The first dose should be given as soon as the vaccine is available. The second dose should be given at least four weeks after the first. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shared this recommendation as the best way to keep children safe this flu season.

Fostering a safe and healthy learning environment for our children

As parents, we know the start of a new school year can be stressful. The good news is we can confidently embrace the changing season, knowing that our children are up to date on their vaccinations. By ensuring our children have a flu shot, we reduce their risk of getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from flu. A flu shot can tame the worst flu symptoms and keep your child from missing school or childcare because of flu and prevent parents from missing work. Let’s fight flu together so kids can maximize their educational experience. Vaccination and preventive actions can help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses.

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