Kids and Flu Shots: What Parents Need to Know
While kids who get a flu shot are not guaranteed absolute immunity from the virus, new research shows they are still less likely to die from the flu than those who are unvaccinated.
Influenza, or the flu, is dangerous for children. Each year, many children get sick with seasonal influenza; some of those illnesses result in death.
A recent Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study was published in the journal Pediatrics, and shows the majority of children who did die from the flu in recent years were not vaccinated.
Dr. Ameera Nauman is a pediatrician at OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center in Alton, Illinois. She reccomends kids get the flu shot every year.
"It’s important because flu strains change every year, and so the CDC actually finds what viruses or strains will go into every year’s flu shot. The strains change, and so that’s why it’s important to do it every single year,” said Dr. Nauman.
It's recommended that everyone six months and older get an annual flu vaccine. This year FluMist is not an option, so the vaccination will be distributed via injection. Dr. Nauman urges parents to speak with their child's physician if they have any questions or concerns.
She adds, the flu vaccine will not give your child the flu. Studies comparing flu shot recipients to people who received salt-water (placebo) shots showed that the only differences in the two groups are that the flu shot recipients experienced redness at the injection site and arm soreness. They weren’t more likely to experience body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
“It’s important to remember that these flu shots are not going to give the child the flu. So most of the side effects are soreness at the site, redness at the site, sometimes they’ll have a low grade fever, but it’s not the flu virus. It’s an inactivated vaccine, so there’s no actual virus in the vaccine.”
Dangers of the Flu
- Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially those younger than five.
- Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than two.
- Children with chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.
- Each year an average of 20,000 children younger than five are hospitalized because of influenza complications.
- Flu seasons vary in severity; however, some children die from flu each year. During the 2012-2013 influenza season, more than 150 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported in the U.S.
Flu Symptoms and Facts
Influenza causes fever, cough, fatigue, body aches and runny nose. Flu season usually peaks from December to February, but influenza activity is already rising in parts of the country, with some regions already seeing activity.
How to Prevent the Flu
The single best way to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a yearly flu (influenza) vaccine for all children six months and older. The ideal time to get the vaccine is as soon as it becomes available. Children should be vaccinated every flu season. Vaccination is also important for pregnant women, those with chronic illnesses and people 65 and older.
For more information, visit the CDC’s flu website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.