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It has been in news that the 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.1 Many parents may have query on ‘What’s Influenza or Flu?’ How is it different from the common cold? Why should one consider protecting 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.2
Influenza or 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.3 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.4 Studies show that in India alone Influenza/ Flu accounts for about 1 lakh hospitalizations in children under 5 years of age every year.5
Anyone can get Influenza/ Flu. However, there are special groups of individuals who are at a higher risk of acquiring the disease, which includes children between 6 months to 5 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.6
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 6 feet away and reach others who are in the vicinity.7
Young children or people with weakened immune systems may have a prolonged infection transmission time hence may be able to infect others for a longer time.6
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 include8:
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 6 months to 5 years of age.9,10,11 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 aids in curbing further transmission of the infection as well.
Consult your paediatrician for more information about Influenza disease and its prevention through vaccination.
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