If you haven’t noticed, fall is underway. Parents often comment to me that time simply flew by. And speaking of flu, what better time to remind parents about flu shots for their children and what the flu is and is “snot.” After all, “‘tis the sneezin’.”
There are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold. But the cold one gets due to the influenza virus is a pretty bad one: higher fevers, severe dry cough, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue – all of which can wipe you out for weeks.
Each year 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications. Many of these children are under the age of 2. Children with 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. That is why this year it is recommended that children and adults alike, from 6 months old through adulthood, get a seasonal flu vaccine.
Although in the past there was a nasal spray version of the vaccine used frequently in children as an alternative to the flu shot, this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend using the nasal spray version of the vaccine. The nasal spray is not considered effective against a leading strain of influenza we expect to see this flu season.
That’s why this year’s recommendation is for all children from age 6 months up receive the injectable version of the vaccine, otherwise known as a flu shot. This vaccine continues to be quite effective against the strains of influenza we expect to encounter in the months ahead.
The side effects of the flu shot in children if any occur remain mild and may consist of a headache, low grade fever and/or tenderness at the site of the injection. These symptoms are much less of a concern than getting the flu itself, and they can be easily treated with acetaminophen.
Hopefully sharp tips like this will be nothing to sneeze at this season. Get your flu shots as soon as you can to prevent your child and you from getting the flu 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 Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.