We’re talking regular flu here, the annual kind, the kind that killed over 24,000 people in the US last winter. [ H1N1 coming up in the next post.] Sure, lots of the people who died were already weak from other illnesses. But many who died were healthy until they got influenza.
You don’t have to die from influenza. Instead, you can just get really, really sick, and possibly infect other people who are less hardy than you.
Or, you can get an annual flu shot or the new flu mist.
Because a member of our immediate family is especially vulnerable to viruses, and because one child in our family has asthma, we have always required everyone in our household to get an annual flu shot– and that includes our au pairs. We prescreen our au pairs on their willingness to get an influenza vaccine. If a candidate says she would not be willing to get a flu shot, we don’t match with her. We’re that serious.
Some families, however, haven’t needed to be quite as alert about flu vaccines… You may not have thought to ask your au pair to get a vaccine, you may not have considered how to get her to a vaccination station, and you may not have considered paying the $15 to $45 that a flu vaccine costs. Well, on the advice of the CDC (Center for Disease Control), my pediatrician, and probably your pediatrician too, start thinking about getting everyone vaccinated.
Here are three reasons why you should get your au pair a flu shot.
1. Your Au Pair could get sick.
Having the flu sucks. It really does. When you get the flu, you are (as Heidi Klum would say) “ouwt”. For days. Maybe even weeks. Plus, you feel sick, really sick. Even after you “recover” you can feel weak and unsteady for another several days. Who wants to do that? Also, if your Au Pair gets sick, you will need to care for her. We often can’t care for ourselves when we are terribly ill, and we need someone to help us… and your au pair might need care from you.
2. Your Au Pair could infect your children and other people’s children.
Needless to say, this would be awful. Children are more susceptible, more vulnerable, and less likely to be able to tough their way through one or two weeks of illness. You don’t know who in your neighborhood, or school, or playgroup, has been vaccinated and you may not know whether someone is particularly vulnerable. Why put others at risk?
Of course, you should get your children (and yourself!) vaccinated against the flu. In most situations that vaccine will protect them. However, it is possible for the flu virus to mutate enough that the flu your au pair catches may not be the flu your kids are protected against. Why take the chance?
3. Your Au Pair could miss work.
In addition to caring about your au pair as a person and as a member of your extended family, she is also your employee. If she gets the flu, who’s going to care for your children? Do you and your partner get sick days? Do you have lots of vacation days you can use for emergency childcare? I don’t mean to sound heartless here, but covering for a sick au pair can be difficult, costly, and stressful.
Your au pair can avoid getting the flu, by getting a flu vaccine. Help her do that.
I don’t want to hear about people’s concerns about the flu vaccine. The shot won’t make you or anyone else sick with the flu. 99% of the concerns you’ll hear are myths, shared by the uninformed, because they are bored with conversations about the weather and that faux-celebrity Kate person. Check the CDC website or trustworthy websites for the scientific facts about flu vaccines and their safety.
As a sensible person, as a parent, and as a host parent, you are responsible for protecting your family as best you can. That means:
Take your Au Pair for a Flu Shot.
Coming up, posts on:
The H1N1 virus and why to get that vaccination too.
“My Au Pair refuses to get a vaccine. What should I do?”
“Why don’t the agencies have a policy about flu vaccines? After all, the au pairs are required to get malaria vaccines, so why not the flu?”