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Children and the flu: Get immunized!

Although influenza (the "flu") is usually a mild disease for adults, it can be serious for children. Don't take chances, be sure and get your child immunized (and yourself, too).

Common flu symptoms usually start suddenly and may include the following:
  • Fever (usually high)
  • Chills and shakes with the fever
  • Fatigue (can be extreme)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose (though not as pronounced as with a cold)
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children)

The single best way to protect against seasonal flu and its potential severe complications in children is to get a seasonal flu vaccine each year. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The 2011-2012 flu vaccine protects against the three main viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness this season. It will protect against an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus and an influenza B virus.

Flu viruses are always changing, so annual vaccination is recommended. Each year scientists try to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause the flu that year. Flu vaccine will not prevent disease from other viruses, including flu viruses not contained in the vaccine.

It takes up to two weeks for protection to develop after vaccination. Protection lasts about a year. All children ages 6 months to 18 should get the flu vaccine.

Kids who are sick should stay home from school and childcare until they are without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. Some might need to stay home longer, depending on how they feel. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

Seek immediate medical attention if your child:
  • Has a high fever, or fever with a rash.
  • Has trouble breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Has bluish skin color.
  • Is not drinking enough fluids.
  • Seems very sleepy or lethargic.
  • Seems confused.
  • Has flu symptoms that get better but then get worse.

For the most part, though, the flu is usually gone in a week or two with a little rest and some hugs and kisses from mom and dad.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kidshealth.org and WebMD.com

October 2011