Flu season is here. For pediatricians like me, this brings to mind the image of clinic rooms and hospital wards packed with children suffering from the flu.
The flu hit children especially hard in 2009. During the 2009-2010 flu season, there were 276 flu-associated deaths in children. As a physician who works in a children’s hospital, I was happy to see less serious flu-related illnesses last year.
Because of the gravity and widespread nature of the 2009 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. Children under 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated, but can be protected by having those around them vaccinated.
For women who will be pregnant during flu season, vaccinating affords protection for mothers and their newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated. Every year, I see far too many new mothers and newborn babies affected by the flu. Flu-related hospitalizations of newborns can be reduced by insuring pregnant mothers and visitors to a newborn’s home are vaccinated against the flu.
In 2009, the regular seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines were separate. Now, they are given in combination. This means fewer shots for everyone.
For people who are ages 2 to 49 who are healthy, not pregnant, and do not suffer from any chronic conditions, the flu vaccine also comes in a nasal spray. This is a more expensive, but reasonable alternative to the injectable flu vaccine.