The end of October often means one thing to children and families: Halloween. But it’s hard to enjoy costumes and candy if you’re stuck in bed with the flu. Seasonal influenza usually begins to increase in October, most commonly peaks between December and February, and can continue as late as May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccination every year. If you or your loved ones have not gotten a flu vaccine yet, now is the time!
Sadly, about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications each year. Even older children, particularly those with chronic diseases such as asthma, are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu, like pneumonia. Schools are prone to flu outbreaks. School-age children often catch the virus because they have poorer hygiene and are in close contact with one another. When children are not vaccinated, they are more likely to get the flu and spread it to others in their classroom and community.
New vaccination guidelines from CDC aim to ensure your children receive the best protection available for their age group. CDC now recommends the nasal spray flu vaccine for healthy* children 2 through 8 years old who have no contraindications to that vaccine. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available, do not hesitate to get the flu shot for your child. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age need two doses of flu vaccine. The first dose “primes” the immune system and the second dose—which should be given at least 28 days after the first—provides immune protection. Getting only one dose when your child actually needs two provides reduced or no protection, so be sure to get the second dose if it’s recommended. Speak with your pediatric health care provider to find out whether two doses are recommended for your child.
The CDC recommendation for yearly flu vaccination does not only apply to children. As a parent or caregiver, you should get a flu vaccine and make sure that others who have close contact with your children also get vaccinated each year. In addition, CDC encourages your family to take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs like flu and other respiratory viruses like enterovirus D68, which has been causing severe illness in many children, especially those with asthma, this year.
Help your trick-or-treaters stay healthy this season and ask your child’s health care professional about flu vaccines today!
*“Healthy” in this instance refers to children 2 years through 8 years old who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.