Keeping Little Ones Healthy During Flu Season
Flu season can be a rough period for both adults and children. While people can technically catch the flu at any time of year, the peak season for the United States tends to be the fall and winter months. The height of flu season is usually between December and February. To help minimize sickness and control the spread, health professionals urge the public to get the flu vaccine every year. But does this directive extend to younger members of the population like toddlers?
How early can children get the flu shot?
Parents may be surprised to learn that children can begin taking the flu shot as young as six months of age. Experts recommend that children get the shot annually in the fall. However, some children between six months to eight years old may need two doses of the shot for maximum protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also note that the best time to get the shot by the end of October to ensure better protection against the virus.
What is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is something like a cocktail that contains a variety of flu strains predicted to be most prevalent during a flu season. In the US, most flu vaccines are either trivalent or quadrivalent. Trivalent vaccines are designed to tackle three strains, while quadrivalent vaccines address four strains. Some vaccines are specifically designed for individuals ages 65 and older. All of the quadrivalent vaccines are approved for use in children as young as six months of age.
But the flu isn’t serious, right?
While most people think of the flu as a minor annual annoyance, the disease can be deadly. And in total, anywhere from five to 20% of the US population will catch the flu every year. On average roughly 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of the flu, with 8,200-20,000 dying from flu-related complications. Getting the flu shot can help to reduce the risk of not only catching the flu but transmitting the virus or experiencing more severe symptoms for people that do contract the flu.
Why the flu vaccine is important
The most obvious reason that the flu vaccine matters is because the shot can help to prevent children from contracting the flu. Additionally, getting vaccinated can help to reduce the risk of a child passing the flu to family or other people. And especially for children diagnosed with serious medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, getting the flu shot can help to prevent the risk of more serious complications that might require hospitalization like flu-related pneumonia.
Get vaccinated, stay safe
Keeping children healthy can also protect the entire family, loved ones, and the community at large. Parents with questions about which flu vaccine is best for a child and when to schedule immunizations should speak with a pediatrician or a healthcare provider.