Chances are good that your college student may not have done the one thing that could make a difference in her health this winter — get a flu shot. Because college students live so closely together in residence halls, once the flu begins, it can spread quickly throughout a campus. Yet according to a study done by Janet Yang at the University of Buffalo, (as reported by Huffington Post) only about 8 percent of college students received a flu shot in a recent year.
Why do college students skip this seemingly simply solution?
One reason students may not be getting vaccinated is because they know that they are not in the groups that are at highest risk of death or other serious consequences from flu. Students may also not be thinking about the seriousness of flu because it is an annual disease and we hear about it every year. Students have stopped paying attention — or never really paid attention to messages in the first place.
Some students — and other adults as well — may believe that getting a flu shot can make you sick, or even potentially give you the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control, that doesn’t happen. Other students may not be seeking vaccination because of the cost of the vaccine — which is usually relatively low or possibly even free.
Finally, many students may not be getting the flu vaccine simply because they forget. In one study, the majority of students who said they planned to get a flu shot failed to follow through. The study found that the shorter the time between the reminder and the flu clinic, the higher the rate of students who followed through.
How can parents help?
When you talk to your college student, ask whether she has gotten a flu shot this year. If she hasn’t, encourage her to do so. There are many options available for getting a flu shot. Many colleges offer free clinics or provide the vaccine through their health center. If your student is coming home for a break (Thanksgiving is just around the corner) suggest a visit to your student’s doctor for a flu shot. Suggest that your student make the appointment now so she won’t forget. The flu vaccine is also available at many local pharmacies for very reasonable cost. Ask your student to check out local options.
Why does it matter?
There may be many different reasons why your student hasn’t gotten a flu shot. Although the risks of serious consequences of flu for this age group are rare, getting the flu can sideline a student for days. When students are in the midst of tests, papers, exams, projects and other obligations, being out of commission for several days can make life extremely difficult.
Remind your student that she may also infect others if she gets the flu. With the holidays approaching and many family gatherings scheduled, your student can help others by protecting herself first. One of the characteristics of many students in this millennial generation is their desire to help others. Encourage her to get a flu shot because she is thinking of those around her as well as herself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu often peaks between December and February, but may circulate as early as October or as late as May. Once your student receives her flu shot, it will take approximately 2 weeks to become effective. Now is the perfect time to prepare for Thanksgiving and Winter breaks.
And while you are reminding your student to get her flu shot, think about yourself. Have you gotten yours?