What is Flu?

Flu is an infectious disease caused by Influenza virus. It spreads rapidly by direct and indirect contact with the affected person’ nasal secretions: coughing, sneezing and soiled clothes/ kerchiefs.

Common symptoms

The symptoms vary according to age of the child:

Newborns:

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty feeding

  • Fever

  • Breath holding spell

Infants, toddlers and preschool children

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty feeding

  • Fever, cough and cold

  • Preschool and school-age children (2-9 years of age)

  • Fever, cough and running nose

  • Laryngotracheobronchitis:
    Difficulty in breathing with increased rate of breathing, harsh cough and fever.

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Tween and teenagers (9 years of age to adults)

  • Malaise, anorexia and dry cough

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • An abrupt onset of fever and chills

  • Muscle pain, also known as myalgia.

Complications attributable to an episode of Flu

  • Acute middle ear infection / otitis media (AOM)

  • Sinusitis

  • Bronchiolitis

  • Croup

  • Pneumonia

  • Myocarditis:
    Like the effects on the other muscles that lead to symptom of myalgia / muscle pain, the heart muscle can also be affected and heart functions can get compromised.

Gravity of problem

Most frequently flu is known to occur among young school going children, commonly during winter months. However, some cases are documented from September till May in different geographical areas of the world and in all age groups, especially in individuals with chronic diseases and compromised immune status.

Children are most affected due to their close interaction with other children and adults in their environment. Moreover, once infected, they continue to shed the virulent form of the virus for a longer period and in high dose as compared to adults.

The disease turns rapidly virulent in children below 5 years of age often demanding hospitalisation. The incidence of hospitalisation and complications attributable to Flu are noted to be significantly high in children below 2 years of age.

Prevention is the only answer

The vaccines

Flu shots are required to be administered every year to all children between 6 months and 9 years of age all over the world.

It is a trivalent vaccine that contains 3 types of influenza viruses; A, H1N1 (seasonal) and H3N2 vaccine and is available in two forms:

  • Inactivated virus vaccine TIV comes in form of injection.

    Immunologic priming is important for optimal response to TIV.

    Single dose of vaccine is ineffective in inducing immunity in children lacking previous experience with the matching type or subtype of the virus.

    Vaccination of pregnant women with TIV provides protection to their infants, presumably through passive transfer of specific antibodies against the virus.

  • New study confirms that TIV is safe in children allergic to egg protein.

  • Vaccine formed of Live attenuated virus LAIV.
    Its mode of route of administration is by inhalation

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When should the vaccine be administered?

As soon as the fresh vaccine for the current season is available and as long as the illness continues to be active in your area.

It takes only about 15 days to develop protective antibody titres after the administration of the vaccine. 

Why do we need to take Flu shot every year?

  • The protection lasts for one year only.

  • The type A virus changes its genetic representation every season.

Also read the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics for prevention of the disease in year 2012 -13.

What are the risks from influenza vaccine?

Mild to moderate post immunization sickness:

  • At the site of injection:
    Soreness, redness, or swelling may occur soon after the vaccination.

  • Generalized symptoms:
    Child may also develop fever and generalized aches and pains, which usually last for 2 to 3 days.

Severe allergic reaction may be seen in children who -

  • Are allergic to eggs.

  • Previous episode of a serious allergic reaction after the administration of the vaccine.

  • Were ever paralyzed by Guillain-Barri syndrome.

  • Currently have a moderate or severe illness.

Caveat:

Precautions need to be taken in pregnant women:
Inform your docto
r even if the pregnancy is not confirmed till then.

Need more information?

  • Consult your doctor or local health department.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
    Visit website at www.cdc.gov/flu
    You can also speak to a CDC personale at “1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)”

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Related pages of interest

Flu Vaccine

Egg Allergy and Flu Vaccine



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