The Flu and Your Children

The COVID-19 pandemic is foremost in everyone’s minds for the majority of 2020. But, it is vital during this time to not forget about the flu. As a parent, the best thing you can do to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated before influenza starts circulating in our community.

Contracting the flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, with thousands hospitalized.

Does my child have the flu?

The flu generally starts more suddenly and severely than a cold and typically lasts 7 to 14 days. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches and pains
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough (usually dry)

The Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and its complications. Even if the vaccine does not entirely prevent the flu, it may reduce the risk of serious illness requiring hospitalization. Last year’s flu vaccine was 45% effective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)t recommends children six months or older receive a flu vaccine every year in the fall, usually by the end of October. There are situations where children may need two doses for the best protection. But do not worry; getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all. Flu season can last well into spring. So, if flu viruses are still circulating, it is never too late to be vaccinated.

The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and could include:

  • Mild soreness where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.
  • A mild fever or aching for the first day or two after immunization.

It would be best if you did not give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen before or shortly after vaccination since it could impact how well the vaccine works. Wait at least six hours post-vaccination for pain or fever relief.

Getting a flu vaccine is especially important this season because the flu and COVID-19 cause similar common signs and symptoms. The flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing the flu, reducing its severity and hospitalizations could also lessen the stress on the health care system.

Mina Joseph, DO

Sanford Children’s Clinic

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