When you take your family on an international holiday, you can be exposed to a variety of diseases, including the flu. Here are three things travelers need to know about flu shots.
Why is the flu a worry for travelers?
You may think that the flu is just a winter disease, but surprisingly, it can also ruin your summer holidays. At home in America, the flu season typically extends from November to April, but other areas experience the flu season during the summer months. If you're traveling to destinations in the Southern hemisphere, like South America or Australia, the flu season starts in April and ends in October. In tropical regions, the entire year is considered flu season.
The flu is more serious for young children, especially kids under the age of two, so travelers with small children need to be concerned about it. The flu can lead to infections of the throat, lungs or airways in children, and depending on your destination, it may be hard to find a doctor or hospital to care for your child.
Who should get vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation is that anyone who is 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine. Ideally, this should happen in the fall before the flu season starts in America, but if your family skipped their flu shots, you can get them before your trip. To make sure you're protected, get your flu shots at least two weeks before you leave for your holiday.
Since new flu vaccines are made every year, the shots you get before your summer holiday may not continue protecting you in the fall. For this reason, the CDC recommends getting new vaccines before the fall season starts.
What other precautions can you take?
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies every year, and in the 2015-2016 flu season, the vaccine was reported to be about 60% effective. Since the vaccine doesn't offer 100% protection, your family will need to take additional precautions to stay healthy.
Make sure that your kids wash their hands often, and if you're somewhere where hand washing is difficult—like on an airplane—use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your face—and teach your kids to do the same—to keep the flu germs from spreading.
If you're taking your family on an international holiday this summer, ask your family doctor about getting vaccinated for the flu, such as at Jeff's Prescription Shop.