Lifestyle

Health matters: It's time to consider flu vaccinations for kids

By JONATHAN R. FOX, MD, FAAP - Special to The Mirror

Influenza season is coming, so now is a good time to review vaccinations for children.

First, a reminder: “The flu” is NOT vomiting and diarrhea.

To mistakenly think of the flu as an intestinal illness is common in the Pacific Northwest and causes confusion about what the vaccine is for.

Influenza is a severe respiratory illness, causing high prolonged fevers, cough, muscle aches and fatigue. It is much worse than an ordinary cold, and causes a deadly epidemic every year.

People who catch the flu are often much sicker than they ever remember being before.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again recommends all children under age 5 get vaccinated against the flu, and I agree.

Some of you may wonder why we have been recommending a flu vaccine for young children in recent years when we didn’t before.

All along, children with obvious risk of serious complications from influenza, such as those with asthma or a heart transplant, would get flu shots.

But more recent research showed even healthy young children are at risk of complications, such as pneumonia and hospitalization, from influenza.

Now that we understand this, we want all young children protected.

I look at it this way: Have you recently seen a TV show from the 1970s, and chuckled as people hopped in their cars and drove off without putting on their seatbelts?

Seatbelt use has risen over the past few decades as we came to understand its importance. So it is with flu vaccine in children.

I don’t want to see any more kids end up in the hospital from the flu, whether they have other health problems or not

In fact, the CDC is looking into expanding its recommendation to all school-age kids in the future.

The best time to vaccinate is in October and November, but vaccination continues through April.

Dr. Jonathan Fox is a pediatrician at Virginia Mason Federal Way. His office number is (253) 874-1616.

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Learn more

Remember that flu vaccine is only approved for use in children ages 6 months and up. To protect babies under 6 months, parents, siblings and caregivers should get flu shots themselves.

For more information, talk to your pediatrician or visit www.cdc.gov/flu/.

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