It has been in the news that health experts are recommending influenza vaccination for all children. As the 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 may have queries on ‘What’s influenza or flu?’ How is it different from the common cold? Why should one consider protecting their child from the same?
Here’s What You Need to Know About the Disease and Its Prevention
Dealing with a runny nose and cough for our children has become a part and parcel of our lives today. Though whenever fever, nose congestion, and other cold-like symptoms escalate, children could be heading into a more dangerous territory of influenza, also known as flu.
Influenza/flu is an extremely contagious viral infection that may affect the airways and lungs of a child and is one of the most common respiratory illnesses encountered during the year. Research conducted by John Hopkins shows that while most children feel better within a week, others may have a more serious infection that may need hospital care and may lead to lung infection (pneumonia) or even death. Studies show that in India alone influenza/flu accounts for about 1 lakh hospitalizations in children under five years of age every year.
Who’s at Risk
Anyone can get influenza/flu. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are special groups of individuals who are at a higher risk of acquiring the disease, which includes children between six months to five years of age, pregnant women, elderly people 65 years of age and above, healthcare workers, and individuals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, immunosuppression, etc.
The virus spreads mainly by droplets released when people with influenza/flu cough, sneeze or talk. Hence, by being close to an infected person one has an increased risk of getting the infection. The droplets released in the air can spread up to about six feet away and reach others who are in the vicinity.
According to the CDC, young children or those with weakened immune systems may have a prolonged infection transmission time, and hence may be able to infect others for a longer time.
While there are several antivirals (anti-influenza) drugs to treat the illness, not contracting the disease should be a key priority. Taking simple and effective preventive actions can help stop the spread of infection. These include:
- Teaching children to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Washing hands thoroughly and regularly. When water is not readily available, using a sanitiser can also prove effective.
- Maintaining safe distance and avoiding direct contact with those who are infected.
- Wearing a mask especially in public spaces.
- Taking the annual influenza vaccination.
Annual influenza/flu vaccination is one of the most effective ways to help protect against influenza.
Global and Indian health authorities strongly recommend annual influenza vaccination for children from six months to five years of age. It is known that immunity against the influenza viruses drops over time and the circulating virus strains change every year hence as does the vaccine, hence vaccination must be done every year. Getting vaccinated against influenza annually not only helps in boosting the immunity of your child but also aids in curbing further transmission of the infection as well.
Consult your paediatrician for more information about influenza disease and its prevention through vaccination.
Disclaimer: Issued in public interest by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Limited. Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400 030, India. Information appearing in this material is for general awareness only. Nothing contained in this material constitutes medical advice. Please consult your physician for medical queries, if any, or any question or concern you may have regarding your condition. Please consult your Paediatrician for the complete list of Vaccine-preventable diseases and the complete vaccination schedule for each disease. Please report adverse events with any GSK product to the company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CL code: NP-IN-ABX-OGM-210001, DoP Apr 2021
Also Read: Flu Vaccine for Babies and Kids