The following sponsored content originally appeared on Samantha Elizabeth’s blog in partnership with I Vaccinate. Read the full piece here.

I’ve partnered with I Vaccinate to share my story, this content is sponsored by I Vaccinate. I Vaccinate provides information and tools based on real medical science and research to help Michigan parents protect their kids.www.ivaccinate.org

The holiday season is well upon us and so is the dreaded cold and flu season. I’m going to guess that you can attest to at least someone in your family has come down with some sort of ailment already this fall – head cold? Stomach bug? If so, you’re not alone! Our family has had a total of five respiratory colds and a stomach bug in the last three months! We’ve had a handful of two-week time spans where everyone is healthy and then we are thrown off course by another ailment. I suppose having a busy three-year-old who likes to get out and partake in all of the kid play and a husband who works at a hospital can contribute to our frequent germ encounters.

Now that we have four-month-old baby Quinn in the picture we are a bit more on guard this flu season. Quinn wants to be near her three-year-old brother, Rowan, at all times and her brother loves to hug, kiss, and “pet” her! (his words not mine) They are inseparable! Despite their inability to truly play with one another just yet, germs are still shared between the two of them. Not to mention, that my being in close proximity to them and handling their day to day needs of diaper changing, food prep, cleaning spit-up, and runny nose-wiping – means I’m an accomplice to their germ sharing. Hand washing is a must and something we’ve proactively taught Rowan to do on his own (with some supervision for efficiency). But despite handwashing…we are well aware that it can’t be the first and only line of defense against the germs that are most lethal to our precious children.

The holidays are a time to gather and come together with family and friends and enjoy the cozy vibes and full hearts the season brings. However, it also means that gatherings like these can be where a warm embrace becomes the starting point for passing along unwanted germs. My husband, Dusty, is a medical physician at Mayo Clinic and we are well aware that vaccines are the safest and most effective way that everyone – especially the most at risk, can be protected from the flu. One of the many ways that vaccinations work effectively is through “herd immunity”. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of contagious disease within a population when a high portion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccinations. This is why it is so very important that before you go and visit family for the holidays – you should be up to date on your vaccinations and your flu vaccine! Especially when you’ll be visiting relatives who might be immunocompromised, elderly, or babies and infants.

The flu vaccine protects against the serious side effects of the influenza virus. While some people may get mildly ill if they get the flu, for others, it can be very severe and even deadly. If you have a cough, runny nose, fever, aches or more, you might have the flu – something that could be prevented or even much more mild by getting the flu vaccine. If you have a stomachache, vomiting or diarrhea, that’s more likely a stomach bug. Unfortunately, the flu vaccine can’t prevent a stomach bug. Stomach bugs are not caused by the influenza virus, even though they can sometimes be called the stomach flu. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor to see when you can safely be around loved ones again.

Quinn will be about 4-5 months old when the holidays kick into gear and we are well aware that she still has yet to receive all of her vaccinations and is too young to receive the flu vaccine. It is imperative that our family members who will be in close contact with her are immunized – together, we can create a protective barrier (herd immunity) that will keep her safe from diseases and illness that could be life-threatening at her young and vulnerable age.

It’s never too late to start asking family members and friends to consider protecting you and your loved ones before gathering for the holidays. Make sure to talk to your medical doctor and do your research about vaccinations through credible websites that are science and research-based such as www.ivaccinate.org.