10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2016-2017 Flu Vaccine

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It’s time to get flu shots for your family before your house is full of fevers and dripping noses.

 

1.  The flu vaccine is essential for children.

The flu virus is common and unpredictable, and it can cause serious complications and death, even in healthy children. Immunization each year is the best way to protect children.

Each year, on average, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications. At least 77 children died from the flu in the 2015-2016 season, although the actual number is probably much higher since many flu deaths aren’t reported and are caused by secondary flu complications such as pneumonia. If you choose not to vaccinate your child, you not only endanger your own child but also others.

Although influenza can be treated with antiviral medications, these drugs are less effective if not started early, can be expensive, and may have bothersome side effects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends annual influenza immunization for all people ages 6 months and older, including children and adolescents. In addition, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children with high risk conditions and all children under the age of 5 especially should be vaccinated.

Young children, people with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are at high risk for complications of influenza, such aspneumonia.

About half of all Americans get vaccinated against the flu each year, including 50% of pregnant women. This number needs to get better. Ask your child’s school, child care center, or sports coach, “How are we promoting the flu vaccine for these children?”

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