With fall almost over, and winter on the way, many parents comment how time simply flew by. Speaking of flu, ‘tis the sneezin’, which means it’s time to remind parents about flu shots for their children. And, of course, what the flu is and is “snot.”

More than 200 viruses cause the common cold. Yet the cold due to the influenza virus is a bad one. Flu includes higher fevers, severe dry cough, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue that wipes you out for weeks.

Each year 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications. Many of these children under the age of 2, who have chronic health problems such as asthma and diabetes, are at even higher risk. Influenza usually occurs in late fall and winter. The strain or type of influenza virus changes each year requiring a yearly flu shot for protection.

2018-2019 Recommendations

This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. The vaccine comes in two forms. One is an injectable vaccine made up of killed parts of influenza viruses. The other is a nasal form made up of live, but very mild or tame forms of the virus. These do not result in the symptoms of influenza that I described above.

The AAP and CDC did not recommend the nasal vaccine for use over the past two years due to its lack of efficacy. This year, experts at the CDC say a newer version of the nasal vaccine is be more effective than prior versions—at least for adults.

The AAP’s preferred choice is the injectable version for all children. That’s because we still don’t know the actual effectiveness of the nasal vaccine in children. The injectable should therefore be the vaccine of choice for any child during the 2018-19 flu season.

The side effects of the injectable flu vaccine in children remain extremely mild. They may consist of a headache, low-grade fever and tenderness at the site of the injection. You can easily treat these symptoms with acetaminophen. They are much less severe than getting the flu itself.

Hopefully, sharp tips like these will be nothing to sneeze at when deciding to get your family flu shots this year.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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