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National Influenza Vaccination Week: Protect your children

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December 8-14 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. In all the holiday hustle and bustle stopping by a doctor’s, pediatrician’s or clinic for 5 minutes can easily fall to the bottom of the “to do” list, but a quick flu vaccination can save hundreds of dollars and much pain and suffering over the next few months. It is one of the best holiday gifts for every family member.

The flu hasn’t reared its unpleasant head yet, but inevitably, it will. For adults it can mean a week or more of misery, reduced or lost work wages, lower quality of family care, and the very real risk of spreading the flu to family members. Spreading flu to preschoolers can be fatal.

90% of children are not vaccinated

Flu in children can be virulent and very dangerous. Childhood flu means time lost from school, parents losing work time to care for ill children, and the threat of parents sending sick kids to school where the flu easily spreads through the student population. Sick students in school puts an extra burden on school staff, particularly school nurses who must try and contact parents, caregivers or emergency contact people to come pick up an ill child. These phone calls and paperwork strain already short staffed and stressed school health care professionals who are often trying to cover more than one school building and the needs of several hundred children.

The CDC stresses the importance of receiving an influenza vaccination with these facts:

• Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old.

• Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.

• Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.

• Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.

• Flu seasons vary in severity, however some children die from flu each year. During the 2012-2013 influenza season, more than 165 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported. More information about pediatric deaths since the 2004-2005 flu season is available in the interactive pediatric death web application.

The single best way to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated each year.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called trivalent vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, this season, there are flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same three viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.

What kinds of flu vaccines are available for children?

• The trivalent flu vaccine protects against three flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. Two types of flu vaccines are available and approved for people ages 6 months and older. They are the standard dose trivalent shots and the quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against four flu viruses. Quadrivalent flu vaccines come in shot or nasal spray depending on age and other health considerations.

A complete list of influenza vaccines that are available for the 2013-14 season can be found on CDC’s influenza website.

CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.

Keep in mind that vaccination is especially important for certain people who are high risk or who are in close contact with high risk persons, including the following groups:

• Children younger than 5 years of age, and children of any age with a long-term health condition like asthma, diabetes or disorders of the brain or nervous system. These children are at higher risk of serious flu complications (like pneumonia) if they get the flu. For the complete list of those at high risk, visit People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications.

• Adults who meet any of the following criteria:

o Are close contacts of children younger than 5 years old (people who live with them).

o Are out-of-home caregivers (nannies, daycare providers, etc.) of children younger than 5 years old.

o Live with or have other close contact with a child or children of any age with a chronic health problem (asthma, diabetes, etc.).

o Are health care workers

There are special vaccination instructions for children aged 6 months through 8 years of age depending on individual circumstances and possible health conditions of a child. Check with your health care provider for the right vaccine for your family members.

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