It has been in the news that health experts are recommending Influenza vaccination for all children. As symptoms of Influenza or Flu and COVID-19 are overlapping, experts believe that the flu shot will help protect children and avert panic among parents. Many parents are wondering what Influenza or Flu is and how to protect their child from the same. Dealing with a runny nose and cough for our children has become a part and parcel of our lives today. Though when fever, nose congestion and other cold-like symptoms escalate, children could be heading into a more dangerous territory of Influenza, also known as Flu. So, know all about the importance of flu shots with expert advice.

TC46 connected with Neonatologist and Pediatrician Dr Santosh Kumar K of Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore to answer all the queries. Here he explains the guidelines, details and importance of flu shots for kids during the monsoon season.

1. Flu shots boost kids’ immunities

The flu shot is important for kids so that they remain protected from any kind of flu that might be going around, as they are not yet eligible to take the Covid vaccine, it is advisable that kids must take their yearly flu shot dose and parents should continue the immunization of kids as per the schedule. Flu shots lessen the strain of the infection and can prevent them from being hospitalized in serious cases. This shot can provide a great advantage to kids who get infected with corona, they will at least not have any kind of complication and may also not require any hospitalization. Thus, a flu shot does reduce the severity of corona infection and offers a protective shield against infections, flu virus and also boosts immunity for children.

2. Children who have taken their flu shots have less probability of having COVID-19

The flu shots are extremely important for kids as the symptoms and tell signs of flu and COVID-19 are very similar. The kids need to stay protected against any kind of infection that is out there. It has been interpreted that kids who have taken their flu shots for the year 2019/2020 have less probability of having COVID-19. If the children take the flu shots and prevent any kind of serious hospitalization required, it can even contribute to lessening the burden on the healthcare sector of the country. However, some children have already been infected with Covid-19. Those children with symptomatic/asymptomatic COVID-19 can take the flu shot after a waiting period of 45 days of infection with Covid. 

3. Post 6 months is the safe age to get your child the flu shot

A child who is over 6 months old can get flu or influenza shots. Babies that are smaller than 6 months although have higher chances of being susceptible to the flu, however, they are not eligible for flu vaccines. The baby who takes a flu shot for the first time after six months should take two doses with a gap of one month in the first and the second dose. Later, children below 18 years can take the yearly dose of the flu shot vaccine.

4. Always consult your paediatrician before booking a vaccine slot

One should always consult and ask their paediatrician before they book a slot for their child. They might be underlying health conditions that a parent might not know, which could lead to allergic reactions to the vaccine. It is generally not endorsed for children who have Guillain Barre or a serious egg allergy. If your child has a history of adverse reactions to medication and shots, you must always recommend your paediatrician or general practitioner as they will be able to guide you appropriately as to what to do and what steps to take.

5. Flu vaccination can be administered to everyone over 6 months of age

For the 2020-2021 flu season, CDC recommends yearly flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. Flu shots can be given to your child 6 months and older. The nasal spray vaccines can be given to people over 49 years of age. However, certain people with underlying medical conditions should not get the nasal spray vaccine. A paediatrician will know which vaccines are right for your child.

6. Possible side effects of the flu shot

A few side effects of the flu shots are body ache, mild fever, headache, soreness where the shot was given. There are a few side effects of the nasal spray like muscle ache, wheezing, or a runny nose. These symptoms should not last more than 2 days and if the child is discomforted with the fever, parents can give the baby medicine in consultation with the doctor for the fever.

7. Signs you need to take your child to the doctor after the flu shot

If your child proceeds to have a very high fever and you see signs of dehydration, one must visit the doctor as soon as possible. If the fever continues to persist even after 1 or 2 days take your child to their paediatrician and get them checked.

8. A gap between flu and COVID vaccine to be maintained

When children are allowed to take the Covid vaccine, it is important to keep in mind that both vaccines are different and for different purposes, so there needs to be a gap between both shots. The cost of an influenza vaccine is not very high. They generally cost around Rs 1,000 to 1,200.

9. Guidelines for children with asthma or allergy

Children with asthma should definitely get the flu shots because it is known that influenza/flu impacts the lungs and children with chronic lung disease- like asthma might have higher chances of contracting this disease and having a severe case of flu where they might even have to get hospitalized. So, it is recommended for kids with allergies or asthma to get the flu shot to prevent future complications. The flu shot is definitely an effective way of preventing the worsening of breathing complications especially in children facing asthma/bronchial conditions, it is highly recommended.

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