New recommendations after last year's deadly flu
Fall may have just arrived, but a warning has already been issued about the upcoming flu season.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released flu vaccine recommendations for the 2018-2019 flu season that advise all children ages 6 months and older receive a flu shot as soon as possible, and no later than the end of October.
They also recommend the injectable flu vaccine be used as the first choice for children rather than the nasal spray vaccine, which has not provided consistent protection against all strains of the flu virus in past years, per the AAP. The nasal spray has limitations on who can use it, and due to unclear effectiveness, especially against influenza A, the injectable form is preferred.
"The very best defense against the flu is the annual flu vaccination, and the sooner your child is vaccinated, the sooner they will be protected," says Dr. Shrinal Vyas, a pediatrician at Advocate Children's Hospital.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are a sad reminder of what can happen when children are not vaccinated. Last flu season, 180 children died of flu-related deaths, and thousands more were hospitalized.
The CDC reports that about 80 percent of children who died had not been vaccinated.
"Vaccine side effects, like soreness, redness or swelling, are far outweighed by the risks," explains Vyas. "The flu virus can cause serious complications in children, especially those who are younger than five or those with chronic conditions, like asthma or diabetes. Being immunized will protect kids from a serious illness that could lead to hospitalization or even death."
The flu vaccine also protects others who are too young or too sick to receive a vaccine themselves, Vyas said.
This year's guidelines also include the following:
• The number of doses of influenza vaccine depends on a child's age and vaccine history. Children 6 months through 8 years of age need two doses when it is the first time they are being vaccinated against influenza. Children 9 years of age and older require only one dose, regardless of prior vaccination history.
• Children with egg allergy can receive influenza vaccine with no additional precautions.
• Pregnant women may receive injected influenza vaccine at any time during pregnancy.
• All health care personnel should receive an annual seasonal influenza vaccine, a crucial step in preventing influenza.
• Antiviral medications are important in the treatment and control of influenza, but they are not a substitute for vaccination."
To schedule your flu shot, call your primary care physician or visit firstavailable.advocatehealth.com to find the first-available pediatrician near you and schedule online.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge.