By Jeffrey Bramnick, Pure Matters
Each fall, you hear that influenza threatens older adults and folks with chronic ailments.
It's true that the death rate from the flu peaks in those 65 years old and older, and that the rate of hospital stays is highest in people 85 and older. But children under age 2 have more severe complications from seasonal influenza and may require hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized each year because of flu complications.
Make it yearly
According to the CDC, children ages 6 months to 19 years should be vaccinated annually against seasonal influenza.
"The number of hospitalizations means that even healthy kids in this age group are considered high risk," says Jon S. Abramson, M.D., a past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' infectious diseases committee.
The CDC says children 8 years old and younger who are immunized for the first time should get two full doses of vaccine, one month apart. The CDC does not advise that infants younger than 6 months get the vaccine. A nasal spray vaccine is available for children ages 2 and older.
OK for pregnant women
Doctors recommend flu shots for pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester during flu season. Flu shots are OK for breastfeeding mothers, Dr. Abramson says.
"The best protection for a child under 6 months old is for the adults and others around the baby to be vaccinated against the flu so the illness is not spread," he says. Then, during the flu season, keep the infant home away from crowds, children other than siblings and public places.
A baby with the flu can run a temperature, sometimes as high as 105 degrees F taken rectally. A fever of 106.5 degrees F is a serious medical risk in itself, says Dr. Abramson.
In babies younger than 3 months, a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher rectally can be a sign of serious illness. If you have questions about the flu or your child's fever, call your doctor.