When it comes to giving medicines or vaccines to my kids, naturally the very first thought that crosses my mind is – is it really needed? Like, why is the influenza vaccine important? What are the benefits of the flu vaccine for kids? Does children’s flu vaccine have any side effects?
It’s natural, right? As a well-read mom to two kids, I want to be sure. So, I attended a session conducted by Abbott India where eminent Mumbai-based doctors – Dr Sadanand S. Shetye (neonatologist and paediatrician) and Dr Mangesh Tiwaskar talked about flu in more detail. Here are six important things I learnt from the session.
6 ways Influenza can affect your child
1. Influenza and the common cold are not the same
Influenza (flu) and common cold are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by influenza viruses whereas common cold is caused by a number of different viruses. Flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are typically more intense and can have serious complications.1
2. A new strain of the influenza virus occurs annually
Growing up in a family of doctors, I know for sure that a new strain of influenza viruses hits us annually. Hence a new vaccine is designed each year to protect against the current strains in circulation. This makes the flu vaccine effective only for the current season. Hence annual vaccination should be given to stay protected from influenza.2
3 .Influenza is contagious
Know that influenza spreads very easily via sneezing, coughing or when the infected person talks. We may also contact influenza unknowingly by touching a surface that has droplets containing the influenza virus. The virus is contagious and can enter us via the nose, mouth and even our eyes.3
4. One sick child in the family is capable of spreading it to others
I feel this puts everyone else at risk of infection as families share pretty much everything. It’s practically difficult to stop the spread of flu to siblings and elderly grandparents who may already be at compromised immunity.4
As per doctors, the risks for influenza-related complications and hospitalizations are highest for small kids, elderly who are 65 years and above, pregnant women as well as people of any age having medical conditions.3
5. Younger children are at higher risk due to flu
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA shows that children younger than 5 years are at higher risk for flu infection as well as hospitalisation. Since our younger kids are still building up their immune defence systems, new parents must make it a priority to discuss the flu vaccination with their paediatricians.5
6. Flu increases absenteeism from school for affected children
We do keep our kids at home when they are sick so that they can recover well. And to avoid spreading the sickness to others. Depending upon the severity of the infection, the child may have to be absent from school thus affecting their studies and extra-curricular activities.
What can you do to prevent influenza?
Now that you know how influenza can affect your child, here are some ways you can prevent getting the infection or spreading it further:6
- Stay at home when you fall sick and avoid close contact with people who may be sick.
- As discussed above, flu is contagious. So, follow coughing and sneezing etiquette. Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after you cough, or wipe your nose. If there’s no soap and water, use a sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your hand to your nose, eyes or mouth.
- Get vaccinated – take the flu shot.
Any person above the age of 6 months can be vaccinated against the flu.2 Do consult your physician about a flu shot because this is the right time to get vaccinated. Join the #FightAgainstFlu.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog contents are independent views solely of the blogger and is not intended to substitute the advice given by licensed health-care professional. Kindly seek advice from health-care provider.
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