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Flu Shots with H1N1 on Their Way, CDC Makes Strongest Recommendation Yet

About this time last year, our pediatrician’s office was so packed I spent over an hour standing in a cramped waiting room—the place was overflowing with swine flu-worried parents and potentially infected children. That was before the official flu season even kicked in.

But this year is starting very differently. Public health officials are coming out of the gate with early vaccines and more aggressive CDC recommendations.

Drug manufacturers started shipping the 2010-2011 flu shot already (it normally doesn’t arrive until the fall).  And more people than ever are expected to get the shots because for the first time the CDC is urging it for everyone 6 months and older.

One of the three flu strains to be included in this year’s seasonal shot—the H1N1 virus. So what was all the confusion and worry about getting inoculated against it last year?The swine flu got left out of last year’s vaccine because the pandemic didn’t hit until it was too late to include it.  A separate shot came out a few months later, but do you remember the anxiety about its safety?  The hurried production made people nervous, but as many have pointed out, if the outbreak had come just a bit earlier, H1N1 would have been added. No news necessary.

As I said in a post last week, Talking to Friends about Vaccines—Dangerous? I hemmed and hawed about swine flu because of anecdotes and opinions from friends (just what Harvard researchers tell us not to do). Now I feel a little silly about it. The CDC estimated that as much as 20 percent of the U.S. population was infected with H1N1 during the 2009-2010 season.  My son luckily wasn’t one of them, but I don’t plan to take my chances this year.

For Babble’s Back to School Guide, which came out last Friday, I wrote the article “How to Treat Kids’ Cold and Flu Symptoms” and I was amazed at how little most people (okay, how little I) know about these common illnesses.  For example, going outside in the winter with a wet head or no jacket—it won’t make you more likely to “catch a cold.”

And the distinction between cold and flu (or lack thereof) surprised me. Whether or not you decide to follow the CDC’s words of advice this season, check out the article for more cold and flu information that might come in handy.

Image: Flickr/futureatlas.com

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