Ask any parent. Crowded classrooms and daycare centers are the perfect incubators for viruses and other illnesses. If one gets sick, they all tend to get sick, and they’ll definitely pass it on to others while they’re at it. Young children are the primary spreaders of nasty viruses like the flu, simply because they’re bad at covering their coughs and sneezes, as well as keeping fingers out of their noses. They’re not great hand-washers, which isn’t surprising since adults are also notoriously bad at it.
Study after study shows that kids are little germ factories. A bit of prevention can help save everyone a lot of time off from work/school and potential heartache. That’s why The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone above the age of six months get an annual flu shot. From the CDC:
“Annual influenza vaccination is a safe and preventive health action that benefits all age groups. However, certain people have a higher risk for influenza complications, including people aged 65 years and older, children younger than 6 months of age, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.”
As noted by the CDC, those who are most susceptible to the flu virus are children, the elderly, and those with impaired immune functions due to chronic health conditions. Each of these populations are at higher risk for serious complications from the influenza virus.
These potentially serious complications are things like ear and sinus infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues, and multi-organ failure. The viral infection moving into the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme auto-immune response that can lead to sepsis – a life-threatening condition. So serious complications look like extended hospitalization and expensive medications at best, and all of the above plus death at the worst. Much of it can be prevented.
Last year, more than 80,000 Americans died from influenza or complications from the flu. To put that into perspective for you – that’s just a bit less than the entire populations of the towns of Paradise Valley, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Chino Valley, Show Low, Sedona, Winslow, Safford and Snowflake combined.
According to the CDC, 185 U.S. children died during the 2017-2018 flu season – a historic high. Here’s a key point: approximately 80 percent of those children did NOT have a flu shot. Even more important to know: Every year, about 20,000 kids younger than 5-years-old are hospitalized with severe complications from the flu. Here’s what you need to know:
- The flu is highly contagious and can be deadly. Little ones can get very, very sick. They’ll likely be in bed for at least a week with a high fever, body aches and a painful cough. They’ll also be at risk for severe complications requiring hospitalization.
- Even healthy kids can spread the virus to others. It’s possible to pass the flu virus on to someone without ever getting sick. In a classroom full of kids, it’s possible for the virus to then get carried home to expose others including babies too young for vaccines or kids and adults with chronic diseases making them more susceptible to getting sick and then experiencing complications requiring hospitalization.
- The flu virus is dangerous and constantly changing. At least 6 months before the onset of flu season, scientists and researchers are working to determine which strains of the virus have mutated and are most likely to spread. That’s why there are new vaccines each year. While you and your children may have been perfectly fine during last year’s flu season, it won’t mean safety this year. Get vaccinated.
- The flu shot is effective in around 60 percent of cases, so it’s possible to catch a strain of the virus that’s not covered by the latest version of the vaccine. But here’s the kicker – while the flu vaccination is not 100 percent effective, simply having it can help limit the severity and duration of illness. Having the flu shot has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of a child ending up in the hospital or dying from the flu.
- Kids under the age of 2 have the highest risk of contracting the flu because they are more vulnerable to experiencing severe complications like dehydration, and will most often require hospitalization. Their immune systems are still developing, so they don’t have the same ability to fight off infection as older kids and adults, and complications can be severe.
One caution – most types of flu vaccines will contain egg protein in small amounts. While most children with egg allergies can safely be vaccinated, those with a severe allergy may or may not be able to be vaccinated. If your child has an egg allergy or other chronic medical conditions, consult your pediatrician to discuss options.
It’s up to parents to protect themselves and their children. While the flu vaccine is available in shot or nasal spray forms, The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to recommend flu shots as the first choice for vaccinating children against the flu. Make the appointment for your whole family today: https://www.baylesshealthcare.com/make-an-appointment/
For more information, visit http://www.preventchildhoodinfluenza.org/