Health officials urge flu shots for all children

Flu season is just around the corner, and with the early onset of pleasant days and chilly nights, it might be closer than you think.

“When the weather starts getting colder, people start staying inside more and they’re closer together,” said DeeAnne Schoenfeld, the immunization charge nurse for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. “I’ve not heard anything about the particular flu viruses coming over earlier : but just sharing the common spaces can certainly do that.”

This year, a record number of flu vaccines are expected to be available – 143 million doses will be sent out in the middle of October. And now children – from 6 months old to 18 years – are being recommended for the flu shot.

“Kids are germ monsters,” said Schoenfeld. “They’ve actually raised the recommendation. It was up to 5 years of age. Now it’s up to 18.”

This year’s vaccine will be a little different from previous years.

“For the first time in a few years, they’re changing all three components, all three viruses,” said Patty Quinlan, nursing supervisor at Kansas University’s Watkins Health Center, which receives 2,500 doses each flu season. “They found that last year’s vaccine did not mimic the actual viruses going around.”

While getting a flu shot is recommended, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

“Wash you hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you’re sick,” said Schoenfeld. “Just keep your germs to yourself.”

Quinlan also reminds people not to share drinks, utensils or hand towels. “Just be aware of what you’re doing on your personal hygiene to protect others.”

Flu season usually stretches between November and April.