WARE — Each winter, millions of people suffer from the cough, fever, aches, and pains caused by the flu, a highly contagious infection.
“Children in particular are great germ spreaders and are vulnerable to colds, flu, and other viruses since they come into contact with so many other children at day care and school,” said Dr. Scott Siege, medical director of Baystate Medical Practice – Quabbin Pediatrics.
“The single best way to protect against seasonal flu and its potential severe complications in children is to get influenza vaccine each year,” he continued. “Even if your child received the vaccine last year, that will not protect them from getting the flu this year. The flu vaccine protection wears off, and flu viruses constantly change; that’s why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly influenza vaccine for all children 6 months through 18 years old. The 2011-12 flu vaccine protects against the three main viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness this season. It will protect against the influenza A (H1N1) virus, the influenza A (H3N2) virus, and the influenza B virus.
“Children age 8 and younger who are receiving the flu vaccine for the first time or who didn’t receive at least one dose of the flu vaccine last year need two doses of this year’s flu vaccine given at least four weeks apart,” said Siege. “One dose is adequate for children age 9 and older, and younger children who’ve been vaccinated before. Children who need two doses of flu vaccine but only get one might not be protected from the flu. Keep in mind that yearly flu vaccines are also important for family members and caregivers that are in close contact with children younger than age 5.
“Each year, the flu vaccine saves lives and spares millions of people days, and sometimes weeks, of misery,” he added. “In addition to an annual flu shot, you can help to protect your children and family from the flu and other illnesses by avoiding large crowds whenever possible, practicing good handwashing, never picking up used tissues, never sharing cups and eating utensils, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and staying home from work or school when someone is sick with the flu.”