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H&W Column: Flu and Young Children

Health & Wellness Column
Virginia Aparicio
Extension Educator – Health & Human Sciences
Purdue Extension Elkhart County

Flu and Young Children

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza (flu) is to get a flu vaccine every flu season. Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children and can lead to serious illness, hospitalization, or even death. Children younger than 5 years and children of any age with certain long-term health problems are at high risk of flu complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections. The flu vaccine is safe and helps protect children from flu.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness spread mainly by droplets made when someone with flu coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. You can also can get flu by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose. Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, feeling tired and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend an annual flu vaccine for all children 6 months and older. Pregnant women are recommended to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and their baby from flu. Research shows that flu vaccination protects the baby from flu for several months after birth.

Millions of people have safely received flu vaccines for decades. Flu vaccines are made using strict safety and production measures. Since flu viruses are constantly changing flu vaccines are updated to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates are most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season. Flu shots and nasal spray flu vaccines are both options for vaccination. Different types of flu vaccines are licensed for different ages. Each person should get one that is appropriate for their age.

Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. Getting yourself and your child vaccinated also can protect others who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain long-term health problems.

To help prevent the spread of germs, avoid people who are sick as much as possible to keep from getting sick yourself. If you or your child are sick, avoid others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Also, remember to cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean surfaces that may be contaminated with flu viruses. These everyday actions can help reduce your chances of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others if you are sick.

Consult your doctor early if you are worried about your child’s illness. Your child’s health care provider can help decide whether your child should take antiviral drugs if they become sick with flu. Antiviral drugs for children come in the form of pills, liquid, inhaled powder, or intravenous solution. They fight flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in the body. Antiviral drugs must be prescribed by a doctor and are not available over-the-counter. For more information visit ###

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