Story by: Justin M. Morgan, M.D., FAAP on October 19, 2022
Pediatricians at Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are gearing up for the upcoming flu season, which typically runs from October through May.
Although influenza rates were lower than usual last year, likely due to pandemic precautions, the flu and other respiratory viruses are expected to rise this year, as schools and students return to many of their usual pre-pandemic activities.
The COVID-19 virus continues to circulate in the community and pediatricians are urging families to get their kids vaccinated for flu. In newly released guidelines, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends children receive their flu vaccinations by the end of October. This includes all eligible kids ages 6 months and older.
Even otherwise healthy children can end up in the hospital with flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 2021-2022 flu season, only 55% of children were vaccinated against influenza. About 80% of pediatric flu deaths occur in children who are not vaccinated.
Patients at highest risk for complications from the flu include those with lung conditions from being born prematurely, those with asthma or those with reactive airway disease, a condition where asthma is suspected but not yet confirmed. Those with neurologic and neurodevelopmental conditions such as seizures or cerebral palsy are also at risk, as are those with chronic medical conditions like obesity, diabetes or a history of immunosuppression.
Seasonal influenza can cause mild to severe illness. Common symptoms include:
The best protection you can give to your child to prevent the flu is a flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, any protection against the flu is better than no protection. This year’s vaccine for children offers protection against four of the major influenza strains (flu A and flu B) expected to circulate this season.
Justin M. Morgan, M.D., FAAP, is a pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group.