This is part deux to an earlier video/post describing the global effort to reduce flu & reasons why we need one every year. Infants and children under age 5 are at higher risk for serious complications from influenza infection. Influenza (“the flu”) is an illness that strikes during the late fall and early winter annually in our country. Great thing is, there is a global effort to coordinate knowledge to reduce the consequences of severe infections. Each year a new flu shot is released to protect us. All children need a flu shot. The reason? It’s estimated that somewhere between 10-40% of all children, each year, get influenza. Sometimes it’s a mild upper respiratory infection, but sometimes it can cause severe lung infections and even death. Each year hundreds of children die in our country from flu even though it is a vaccine-preventable illness. I hear lots of myths and rumors about the flu shot in clinic (more than any other vaccine). Check out my friend Dr Claire McCarthy’s post on de-bunking the myths.

Of those children who are seriously ill and hospitalized, somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 can be children with no underlying medical issues. Healthy children get the flu, too. If your child has underlying neurologic problems, wheezing or asthma, or diabetes they are also considered higher risk for severe infection.

It takes a well-immunized community to reduce the spread of influenza. And our children, swapping spit and snot at school, are one of our most precious groups to protect.

Which Flu Vaccine And How Many to Get?

Infants 6 months of age and up can get flu shot. Most infants will need two doses, separated by 1 month, while all children over age 9 years need only one dose. If you have a young child (<9 years) and they have never had the flu shot before, they will need two doses. Ask your child’s doctor how many doses your baby, toddler, or child needs this year.  What you need to know about flu.

There are two types of vaccine, the flu shot & the nasal spray. Both protect against the same virus strains. Check out www.flu.gov. Here’s a quick explanation:

The flu shot is:
• Made with inactivated (killed) flu virus
• Given by needle
• Approved for use in healthy people older than 6 months and people with chronic health conditions
• Available in 3 types:
◦ Regular, for people 6 months and older
◦ High-dose, for people 65 and older. This type contains a higher dose vaccine, which may lead to greater protection against the flu.
◦ Intradermal (given with a small needle and injected in your skin), for people 18 to 64
The nasal spray is:
• Made with weakened live flu virus
• Given with a mist sprayed in your nose
• Approved for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, except pregnant women

Families with infants in their homes need flu shots to “cocoon” their babies. Surround your infants with family that are all immunized to protect them. If you’re breast-feeding, get the flu shot, too!

More information about the flu is also available from Seattle Children’s.