Flor M. Muñoz and Christina A. Bryant

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Q: Do healthy children really need the flu vaccine?

A: Influenza, short for influenza, is an illness caused by a respiratory virus. Influenza can spread quickly in communities because the virus is passed from person to person.

When a flu patient coughs or sneezes, influenza virus gets into the air and anyone nearby, including children, can breathe it in through their nose or mouth. The virus can also be spread when people touch a contaminated hard surface, such as a doorknob, and then put their hands or fingers in their nose or mouth or rub their eyes.

The flu season usually begins in the fall and may continue until late spring. Ideally, children should receive the annual flu vaccine as soon as it is available, but no later than the end of October. But if your child hasn’t been vaccinated yet, you should still get it at the first opportunity. Children under 9 years of age who are immunized for the first time or who received only one flu vaccine before July 1, 2022, will need two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart.

When an outbreak or epidemic occurs, usually during the winter months, the disease is most common in preschools or children of school age. Influenza viruses are also known to spread rapidly among students and teenagers.

In the first few days of illness, the virus is easily transmitted to other children, parents and caregivers.

It is important for anyone 6 months of age and older to get the flu vaccine every year. Everyone 6 months of age and older should also receive the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose if eligible. The COVID vaccine and the flu vaccine can be safely given one after the other or at any time.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Sudden fever (usually above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius)
  • Chills
  • Headache, body aches and much more fatigue than usual
  • Angina
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • stuffy runny nose
  • Some children may throw up (vomit) and have loose stools (diarrhoea)

After the first few days of these symptoms, a sore throat, a stuffy nose and a prolonged cough become the most obvious. The flu can last a week or even longer. A child with a common cold usually has only a low-grade fever, a runny nose, and a slight cough. Children with the flu, or adults for that matter, usually feel much sicker, richer, and more miserable than those who just have a cold.

Everyone needs a flu vaccine every year to renew their protection and reduce the risk of serious complications. This is the best way to prevent catching the flu. Safe and effective vaccines are produced every year.

This season, you can get an inactivated (killed) flu vaccine, also called a flu shot that is given by injection into a muscle, or a live, attenuated nasal spray vaccine. There is no preference for product or formulation, and any age- and health-appropriate vaccine can be used.

The vaccine teaches your body’s immune system to protect you from the virus. This takes about two weeks after vaccination. Getting vaccinated before the flu starts to spread will keep your family healthy so they can continue to enjoy activities that help them thrive.

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent seasonal flu and its serious complications, including hospitalization and death. Having received a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccines for children and adolescents can also help prevent the virus from spreading to other people who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and hospitalized, including grandparents and/or those with chronic medical conditions.

Ask your pediatrician: Which flu vaccine should kids get this year?

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Citation: Ask the pediatrician: Why should children get the flu vaccine? (2022, October 10) Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-pediatrician-children-flu-vaccine.html

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