CLEVELAND – Getting back into the swing of the school year includes protecting your family from viruses.

But even though cold and flu season may seem far away, now is the time to think about flu vaccines.

According to Frank Esper M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, it’s best to have children receive their flu vaccines as soon as they’re available, to make sure their immune systems are ready to fight.

“The best time to get the flu vaccine is before flu spreads,” he said. “It takes anywhere between two to four weeks for your immune system to ramp up and be protected after you get your vaccination.”

There are several misconceptions about the flu vaccine – one of them being that you can get the flu from the vaccine.

Dr. Esper said this is a myth.

“The flu shot is a dead vaccine; it is a bunch of pieces and parts of the flu that cannot grow and cause infection. You cannot get infected with the flu shot,” he said.

The flu is a severe respiratory illness that comes with a high fever, aches, chills, and has a sudden onset.

Because the flu virus has the ability to change, sometimes mid-season, the flu vaccine is not a guarantee that your family will avoid the flu all together.

But it greatly reduces your chances of catching it – and without flu immunization, you’re rolling the dice.

“Even healthy, young adults, older adults, children – even if they have no other problems – they can get really bad flu,” said Dr. Esper. “They can be hospitalized; they can get bad pneumonias, and they can die. There are certain people that are more at risk of being hospitalized, and of dying. When you get your vaccination, you’re not only protecting yourself, you’re protecting those individuals around you whom you come in contact with.”

Dr. Esper said flu vaccines are recommended for all children over the age of six months. Those children under the age of 8 who have never received a flu vaccine, need two doses.

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