Skip to content

Why Teachers, Staff, and Their Students Need a Flu Vaccine

Dr. Kate Land is a Kaiser Permanente Pediatrician and mother of three. For more great advice from Dr. Land visit the KP Thriving Families parenting blog.

It’s hard to believe that summer’s over, school is in full swing, pumpkin spice lattes are back and – it’s time again for school-based professionals and students and their families to get the flu shot!

Did you know that student health is one of the most significant contributors to chronic absenteeism? When students miss too much school, they are at risk for devasting impacts, like not reading at grade level and even dropping out of school. And when teachers have to take sick days and are out of the classroom, it’s not great for their mental health or well-being… or their students – who depend on those trusted relationships. One way to help fight negative impacts of absenteeism is by staying protected from illnesses like influenza. The flu shot can help. It not only protects families and friends, but it also helps keep everyone IN school.

The flu vaccine is safe and does a great job of decreasing the chances of:

  • Getting the flu. If a vaccinated person does get it, their symptoms will be milder.
  • Developing severe complications of the flu, such as pneumonia.
  • Spreading influenza to other vulnerable people, such as teachers or other students who may have weakened immune systems. It’s common for those at risk to get the flu from a child.

FAQs About the Flu Vax

Does the flu vaccine work?
Yes. Every flu season we see different strains of the flu virus circulating and causing illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors flu activity worldwide and guides the choice of vaccine so that it closely matches the current flu viruses. Unfortunately, the viruses sometimes change quickly during the flu season so the vaccine may not always be a perfect match. But the flu vaccine does provide a level of protection that you wouldn’t have otherwise. People who are vaccinated are less likely to get influenza at all. If they do get ill, vaccinated people will be less sick and less likely to get severe complications of the flu, such as pneumonia.

What’s the difference between “flu,” “influenza,” and a “cold”?
Both the flu and the cold are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses.

Influenza, or “flu,” are terms we use to describe a serious viral illness. It usually starts very quickly, causing high fevers, body aches, cough, congestion (and especially in young kids – diarrhea and vomiting). People feel really miserable with the flu! It typically lasts longer than a cold and is much more intense. The flu can cause you to miss an entire week of school or work.

Colds are milder and don’t last as long – your child may have a stuffy or runny nose and a cough, but usually not body aches and a high fever, like with the flu. But influenza is not just a bad cold. It’s also not the virus that causes “stomach flu” (just vomiting and diarrhea, usually only for a day).

While there’s no vaccine for the common cold or stomach viruses, there is one for the flu.

Is the flu vaccine really necessary?
Yes! We protect children every day. For example, young children ride in a car seat every time they ride in a car. We hope to never need the protection of a car seat, right? But since we can’t predict if an accident will occur, we use car seats to protect our kids. The flu shot is similar – it’s another way of proactively protecting yourself and others.

Also, it’s very common for older people or those with weakened immune systems to become infected with influenza from a child. So, as you protect yourself and encourage parents to protect their kids, you’re also protecting other people you care about as well. We’re all in this together!

Can the vaccine give you the flu?
No, a flu vaccine can’t give you flu. Most people don’t notice any side effects at all after they get a flu vaccine. If they do, these are almost always mild and temporary, such as a sore arm or achiness. Sometimes, people get a low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches. This means the body’s immune system is responding positively to the vaccine – which prepares it to fight off the real influenza virus! But remember, there’s nothing in the flu vaccine that can cause long-term illness.

Is getting the flu shot important even for healthy people?
Yes. Children 6 months and older and adults all need a flu vaccine. Even healthy kids can get seriously ill with influenza, causing them to miss a lot of school and other activities. Some need to be hospitalized and may even die. Of those who died from influenza, the large majority were unvaccinated. Flu vaccines are especially important for people who have conditions like asthma, diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.

I get my flu vaccine every year – and so do my 3 children. I want teachers and students to be as protected as my own family, and getting a flu shot today is the most important thing you can do to stay healthy this winter.

Read more from Dr. Land on her blog KP Thriving Families.

Back To Top