Why kids need a flu shot

We’re all familiar with the common symptoms of the flu — high fever, cough, sore throat, chills, headaches and body aches, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. And this flu season is no different.

Recently, flu was the reason an Illinois school closed for two days, and schools in Polk County, Georgia, closed to start winter break early. Dallas County, Texas, is reporting a significant flu outbreak and New York City has announced that starting Dec. 31, kids 6 months old to age 5 will be required to get a flu shot. Their goal? To help fight the increased risk facing children age 5 and younger who are in a group setting such as preschool and child care centers.

For everyone, and especially children, the virus is highly contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is more dangerous for children than the common cold.

  • Severe flu complications are most common in children younger than age 2.
  • Each year an average of 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized due to complications from the flu.
  • During last year’s flu season, more than 100 deaths due to complications from the flu were reported nationwide. So far this year, seven pediatric deaths have been reported.

Taking steps to help prevent the flu, such as getting vaccinated and plenty of hand- washing, can help prevent transferring the virus to others. You may have heard the CDC report earlier this month that this year’s vaccine prevents fewer than half of flu cases because the strain of the virus has already mutated. However, James T. Jennings, M.D., family physician at Norton Healthcare, still recommends getting a flu shot. The vaccine provides some protection and lessens the severity of the symptoms if you get the flu, he said.

“What I typically share with patients is that the vaccine still affords protection. Not all strains may be covered, but it could minimize the severity and the length of the symptoms. I encourage them to call our office to be seen if they exhibit fevers and muscle aches. A flu test is a simple nasal swab, and once we know that it is the flu, we can give medicine to help.”

Be sure to see your doctor when you first notice symptoms. The medication for treating the flu virus is most effective within the first 48 hours.

According the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children age 6 months and older should receive the flu vaccine, unless there is a medical reason not to vaccinate. If your child is between 6 months and 8 years old and has not had a flu vaccine before, two doses four weeks apart are recommended for the best immune response. Previously vaccinated children may need only one dose. Parents of healthy children between the ages of 2 and 8 should consider getting their kids the nasal spray vaccine instead of the flu shot if it is available.

According to a new influenza prediction map released by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, peak flu season in Kentucky is forecasted to begin during the week of Dec. 20 and hit the top of the peak just after Christmas during the week of Dec. 27.  If you and your family have not been vaccinated against the flu, stop by a Norton Immediate Care Center to receive your shot or call your primary care physician or pediatrician for your kids.

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