While many people view influenza as “just the flu”, doctors have a different perspective. We have seen the harm influenza can cause, especially in vulnerable children. But even healthy children are at risk. For example, staphylococcus (“staph”, a dangerous group of bacteria that includes MRSA), can attack lungs already compromised by influenza. This is referred to as staph pneumonia, and it can permanently damage vital organs and even cause death. In our residency training, we have witnessed healthy children die or suffer permanent brain injury from influenza-related complications.
For these reasons, we recommend protecting your children against influenza every year. The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed this recommendation. The best way to protect your child is with the flu vaccine. The influenza virus changes every year, and so does the flu vaccine. The strength of the protection varies year to year, but is generally considered modest to high. In addition to personal protection, children who receive the flu vaccine may protect those around them by not spreading the virus.
The flu vaccine is quite safe. About 5 to 10 percent of children get a fever. Other common side effects include muscle aches and fatigue. These side effects are sometimes misinterpreted as the flu itself. It is important to know that, while it is possible to get the flu despite receiving the flu vaccine, it is not possible to get the flu from the flu vaccine. This is because the vaccine contains an inactivated version of the virus. Also of note, although the vaccine is produced using eggs, it does not cause allergic reaction in patients allergic to eggs. Patients who have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine itself should not receive the vaccine.
Pediatric Associates of Cheshire offers the flu vaccine from the end of August until March. Children are eligible beginning at 6 months of age. Young children who are receiving the flu vaccine for the first time should receive a booster shot at least 1 month after the first shot. Our office is holding flu clinics on October 23rd, November 6th, and November 10th. Please call our office to schedule an appointment at one of these clinics or ask your child’s pediatrician about the flu vaccine at his or her next checkup.