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Do I really need a flu shot? Your questions, answered

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read

The chill in the air is getting crisper, and you can already feel the invisible clouds of germs gathering. With the flu season here, you might find yourself questioning, “Do I really need a flu shot?” You’re foreseeing weeks of runny noses, sleepless nights, countless pharmacy runs, and the stress of juggling work and a sick child.

But don’t stress! We’re here to break down all you need to know about the flu vaccine – your key player in the battle against the flu season. Consider us your friendly, go-to source armed with facts and real-life experiences. Let’s address your flu shot questions and get you prepped and ready for the season.

Influenza A and B: Understanding the adversary

To win the battle, we need to understand our enemy. In the world of flu viruses, ‘Influenza A’ and ‘Influenza B’ are the key culprits. Influenza A, in particular, is a major player in flu epidemics. This virus doesn’t discriminate, affecting both humans and animals and is known for its quick mutation rate, creating new strains regularly.

Although less severe, Influenza B shouldn’t be overlooked as it can also cause significant outbreaks. However, it mainly sticks to humans. The good news is that the flu vaccine is designed to shield your body against both these strains, providing a formidable defensive line.

The flu shot: Your ally in the fight

The flu shot is like a strategic battle plan for your immune system. It triggers your body to produce antibodies to fight off the influenza virus. Imagine these antibodies as your body’s infantry, recognising and fending off the virus before it can cause damage.

The flu vaccine isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s updated annually to match the influenza strains predicted to be most common in the upcoming season, hence the term ‘flu vaccine 2023’.

Now that we’re acquainted with the flu vaccine and its role in our immune system let’s tackle some popular myths surrounding it.

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Debunking myths around flu vaccines

In the world of the internet, misinformation spreads like wildfire. Let’s play myth-busters and uncover the truth about the flu vaccine:

Myth 1: The flu shot can give you the flu.

Fact: Absolutely not! The injected vaccine contains an inactivated virus that can’t cause the disease.

Myth 2: Healthy people don’t need a flu shot.

Fact: Everyone is susceptible to the flu virus, even healthy individuals. Plus, getting vaccinated helps protect those around us who are vulnerable to serious flu illness.

Myth 3: The flu shot isn’t safe for children or pregnant women.

Fact: Quite the contrary! Certain groups, including young children, pregnant women, and older adults, are particularly encouraged to get vaccinated due to their high risk for complications from influenza.

Talking to the doubters

Despite substantial scientific evidence backing the flu vaccine, many people harbour misconceptions. Navigating conversations with these doubters can be tricky.

Always approach these discussions with a calm and respectful tone. Listening to their concerns and responding with empathy and facts is essential. For instance, you can explain that the flu vaccine doesn’t cause the flu because it contains an inactivated virus.

Discuss the concept of herd immunity and the crucial role vaccines play in disease prevention. Highlight the importance of protecting vulnerable groups like infants, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals.

Changing someone’s perspective often takes time and patience. But remember, every conversation sows a seed of doubt in the misinformation they may hold as truth.

Parents, you’re up first

As parents, our instincts are always to protect our children. However, we often forget that our well-being is just as important. After all, we can’t care for our kids if we’re unwell ourselves.

Getting the flu shot protects us from falling ill and reduces the risk of passing the flu on to our children. As parents, our actions influence our children’s attitudes towards health and well-being. Let’s set a strong example by prioritising our health and getting vaccinated.


It’s the kids’ turn

It’s time to prepare your little ones for their turn. According to the Australian Immunisation Handbook, all children from the age of six months should get the flu vaccine. Two doses are recommended for children between six months and nine years receiving the flu vaccine for the first time.

Practical tips for parents: Preparing your kids for the flu shot

Taking your child for their first flu shot can be a daunting experience, both for you and your little one. Here are some practical tips to help make the process smoother:

1. Be honest: Be upfront with your child about what to expect. Use age-appropriate language to explain that they will feel a pinch, but it will be over quickly.

2. Distract them: Distraction can be a useful tool. Bring a favourite toy, book, or game to occupy your child’s attention during the vaccination.

3. Show empathy: Let them know it’s okay to be scared and you’re there to support them. A cuddle or holding their hand during the procedure can provide a lot of comfort.

4. Dress for comfort: Dress your child in a loose, short-sleeved shirt to make the vaccination process quicker and less stressful. You can wrap them up after to keep them warm.

5. Reward them: Consider a small reward after the shot, like a sticker or treat, to positively reinforce the experience.

6. Post-shot care: Some children might experience minor side effects after the shot, such as soreness or redness at the injection site, mild fever, or aches. Here’s what you can do:

  • For soreness: Apply a cool, wet cloth to the injection site to soothe the area.
  • For fever or discomfort: Over-the-counter medication like paracetamol can help. However, it’s always best to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any medicine to your child.
  • Remember, serious side effects are rare. However, if your child shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness, seek medical attention immediately.

Is the flu shot free in Australia?

The National Immunisation Program in Australia offers the flu vaccine free of charge to specific groups. This includes children aged between six months and five years, people aged over 65, pregnant women, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Where to get the flu shot in Australia

Flu shots are accessible across Australia and available at GP clinics, community health clinics, and some pharmacies. If you’re unsure where to go, check the Australian Immunisation Register. It can help you locate a nearby location, making the flu shot conveniently within your reach.

Resources for flu shots across Australia

To make your quest for flu shots easier, here are some resources to check out:

The Australian Government Department of Health
Immunisation Foundation of Australia
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

At the end of the day, the flu shot is your best defence against the flu. It’s safe, effective, and plays a crucial role in protecting not just you and your family but also the broader community. So let’s band together, roll up our sleeves, and get ready to take on the flu season. After all, prevention is the best cure.

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