Children are at high risk of getting the flu and developing flu-related complications. So it’s important for children and parents to get vaccinated. Each year, about 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized from flu complications, such as pneumonia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for everyone 6 months or older, with rare exception. It is especially important that young children and children with long-term health conditions get vaccinated.
Caregivers of children with health conditions or of young children (especially those younger than 6 months) should get vaccinated to help protect these children against the flu. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu complications but are too young to get a flu vaccine.
Steps for Prevention
You can also help prevent the flu by:
- Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Staying away from people who are sick.
- Washing hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Keeping a sick person in the house in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
- Keeping surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
- Throwing tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in your household in the trash.
If your child gets sick, contact your child’s doctor if you are worried about your child’s symptoms.
- If your child is younger than 5 years (and especially younger than 2 years) or of any age with a long-term health condition (like asthma, a neurological condition, or diabetes, for example) and develops flu-like symptoms, they are at risk for serious complications from the flu. Ask your child’s doctor if he/she child should be examined.
- Antiviral drugs can treat flu illness and work best when started during the first two days of illness. These drugs need to be prescribed by your child’s doctor.
When to Get Emergency Care
Call for emergency care or take your child to a doctor right away if your child of any age has any of the warning or emergency signs below:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids (not going to the bathroom or making as much urine as they normally do)
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Has other conditions (like heart or lung disease, diabetes, or asthma) and develops flu symptoms, including a fever and/or cough.
Sources: The Flu: A Guide for Parents, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Flu.gov
In the News
- At Some California Hospitals, Fewer than Half of Workers Get the Flu Shot, California Healthline, features Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego (2/27/18)
- Flu Still Going Strong: Nearly 800 More Cases, 18 Deaths, The San Diego Union-Tribune, features Mark Sawyer, M.D. (2/21/18)
- CDC: Flu Vaccine Is 25 Percent Effective Against Dominant H3N2 Strain, The San Diego Union-Tribune, features John Bradley, M.D. (2/15/18)
- San Diego’s Second Flu Surge Continues to Grow, The San Diego Union-Tribune, features John Bradley, M.D. (2/14/18)
- San Diego People: Impact of San Diego’s Flu Outbreak, kusi.com, features Mark Sawyer, M.D. (1/15/18)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 2018-19 Flu Season
- Flu and You: Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Take 3 Actions to Fight Flu: Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Flu: A Guide for Parents, Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Influenza (Kids’Health)