Why Children Should Get The Flu Vaccine


The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children get an annual flu vaccine.

“Children under the age of two are at higher risk for hospitalization due to flu complications – such as pneumonia or bacteria in their blood,” says Jonathan Hoskins, MD, family medicine physician at Clinton County Rural Health in Breese.

“The flu vaccine can help children avoid getting the flu altogether or avoid more severe consequences of the flu if they do get it sick,” says Dr. Hoskins. This year doctors have the added challenge of distinguishing between COVID and flu symptoms. Once the flu season starts, it will be virtually impossible to tell without a test which virus someone has. Fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue and sore throat are all common with both viruses.

Children ages 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine. Young children may need to receive the vaccine in two doses. Doctors prefer to administer the flu vaccine in late September to early October before the flu season begins. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

Even so, it is never too late to get the flu shot. Flu vaccine administered later in winter can offer some protection for the remainder of flu season, which could last until May.

Helping children with shot anxiety

“Some children will get very anxious about a shot. If their anxiety is strong, you could practice some deep breathing or relaxing exercises together,” says Dr. Hoskins. “Try to be honest about what is coming. You can tell them it’s a small poke in the arm and it is over in a few seconds.” You could also offer a treat or sticker as a reward when it is over.

If there are siblings in the family, older children could get their shot first to help set an example and show younger siblings that it isn’t as frightening as they might think.

What to do if your child gets sick

If your child is sick, they should not go to school. You should also limit contact with other siblings and family members in the home.

“If your child does become ill, they should be evaluated by their primary care doctor. Consider calling ahead to the doctor’s office so they can prepare and avoid your child waiting too long in the lobby, potentially exposing others to their illness,” says Dr. Hoskins.

Seeing a doctor is especially important for children younger than two years old, who may experience difficulty breathing or dehydration. At that time, the doctor will determine if a flu or COVID test should be administered, and the illness can be treated accordingly. If flu is diagnosed within 48 hours of symptoms starting, some infants and children may be able to take Tamiflu, which can help decrease the severity of their symptoms.

Where to get your flu vaccine

HSHS Medical Group is now offering flu shots to established patients in their primary care offices. Walk in or call your local primary care office for an appointment. For pediatric patients, please call ahead to verify availability.

If you do not have a primary care provider, you can call the HSHS Medical Group patient advocate at 833-973-0343, who can help you find a doctor who fits your unique health care needs.

Where to learn more about the flu vaccine

For more information about the flu vaccine, visit CDC.gov or AAP.org.

Dr. Hoskins is accepting new patients at Clinton County Rural Health in Breese. To schedule an appointment, call 618-526-7271.

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