Monthly Archives: January 2012

Influenza and Why You Should Immunize Your Child

Filed under Pediatrics

Did you get your flu shot?  If you haven’t gotten it yet, now is the perfect time to get your influenza vaccine. The influenza vaccine is recommended every year for all children over 6-months-old and all adults.

Influenza is a viral infection that causes sudden high fevers, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  Serious infections may develop following a case of influenza – especially in infants and children with serious underlying health conditions.  A child with asthma or heart problems or an immune problem who contracts influenza can have a severe and complicated illness that may put them in the hospital or worse.  A baby who contracts influenza can have severe health problems.  An influenza infection also has serious health consequences for adults, particularly those who have chronic breathing problems or people who are unfortunately going through chemotherapy. Other high-risk patients are those who have asthma, a weakened immune system, any heart, lung, kidney, blood or liver diseases, diabetes, or are pregnant.

Many people don’t get the flu shot because they are concerned about the feeling they get after the shot.  Mostly people have some soreness at the site of the injection.  If you are in the minority of people who feel different or have mild body aches after the vaccine, that feeling is your immune system “kicking in” and forming protective antibodies to influenza.  A lot of people refer to infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea as “the flu.”  It is not.  The viral infections that affect people’s guts are actually something different from influenza.

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die from influenza.  Getting a needle stuck in your arm isn’t fun, but it is the least you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones against this serious and possibly life-threatening infection.

A Few Words About Safety

Vaccines are safe and they work. Vaccinating children and young adults may be the most important intervention I do as pediatrician.  There will likely always be controversy surrounding vaccination. However, the vaccine campaign is truly a victim of its own success. It is because vaccines are so effective at preventing illness that we even discuss whether or not they should be given. Because of vaccines, most of us have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis or even chickenpox. Because of vaccines, most of us have never known a friend or family member whose child died from one of these diseases.

If you still have doubts about vaccines, keep in mind that thousands of our brightest scientists and physicians have studied the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations for many years.  We are confident in recommending these vaccines and the schedule for when they should be given.

In the end, bad things unfortunately do happen to good people. We should take comfort knowing we have the power to prevent serious or life-threatening illnesses from striking those we love through safe and effective vaccines.

For more on the importance of vaccination, visit:

Thomas R. Akland, DO, FACOP, FAAP is a Board-Certified Pediatrician, the Medical Director for Southwest Michigan Children’s Healthcare Access Program, and is accepting new patients at Borgess Family Medicine in Plainwell, call (269) 552-0100.