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Flu Shots in Kids

Ask the Experts by Prashant V. Mahajan, MD, MPH, MBA

Why is it important for children to be protected against the flu?

It is estimated that each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications. Severe complications are more common in children younger than two years of age.

Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are also at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Parents should check with their pediatrician so the vaccine or nasal-spray is given when it is available.

Should all kids receive a flu shot or nasal-spray flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that all children six months of age and older receive a flu shot. Children who are two and older can also receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine.

How does the vaccine and nasal-spray flu vaccine protect children?

They both cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination which protects against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

The common influenza viruses circulating among people today include: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

Are there children who should not be vaccinated against the flu?

Like adults children with the following conditions should not be vaccinated against the flu.

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken or eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

Any other important information worth noting?

Families are encouraged to touch base with their pediatrician to receive a flu shot or nasal-spray vaccine to provide the best protection against the flu.  For those without insurance, you can visit  www.childrensdmc.org/ImmunizationStation for resources on immunizations.

Each year, many children get sick with seasonal influenza (the flu). Some of those illnesses can lead to hospitalization and even death. Flu Shots or the nasal-spray flu vaccine (LAIV) offer the single best way to protect children from the flu.

This article was written by Prashant V. Mahajan, MD, MPH, MBA, Division Chief and Research Director in Emergency Medicine at DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan answers some common questions regarding the influenza virus and flu shots in kids. For further information or to schedule an appointment with a pediatric specialist call (313) 745-KIDS or visit  www.childrensdmc.org. DMC Children's Hospital is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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