Importance of Influenza Vaccine for Children Pre-Monsoon During COVID Times

4 min read

Monsoon season, however refreshing it may be, also means trying to keep the children away from getting wet in the rains so that they don’t fall ill. The rainfall season brings with it a host of diseases and infections that pose a threat to your children’s health, especially a disease like Influenza or flu. This flu can become more dangerous during the current times of COVID-19 as it can lead to respiratory issues.  However, just a little precaution from your end can alleviate this threat and help your kids stay healthy. So first let’s understand what is Influenza.

influenza vaccine

What is Influenza or flu?

Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs), according to studies.  The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.

How Does it Spread?

Influenza, as mentioned earlier, is a virus that can spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. A child can be infected due to this personal contact or by touching an object like a cell phone, toys, computer, etc which has earlier been touched by an infected person.

influenza or flu virus , girl having cold

Are Kids at Risk?

Flu is highly contagious and therefore children are easily infected as they have a weak immune system.  Doctors say that seasonal influenza can be a very serious illness and the highest risk group are children up to the age of 5 years and can lead to long-term health conditions.

It is also been noticed that in younger children, influenza can cause diseases like lung infection (pneumonia), and febrile fits.

What are the Precautionary Measures?

From doctors recommend getting children vaccinated against flu. The vaccination not just protects the child from influenza, but also protects others around them. During the rainfall season, children are more susceptible to catching a cold and cough, and therefore, specialists suggest seasonal influenza vaccinations for children as a precautionary measure and to be equipped against the viral infection.

girl having cold and cough

COVID-19 and Influenza: What does Research Show?

A recent study by the Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, ‘The flu vaccination may have a protective effect on the course of covid-19 in the pediatric population: when does SARS-Cov-2 meet influenza’ was recently published in the journal Cureus. The research suggests that the children who have received their dose of seasonal flu vaccine are less likely to be infected with COVID-19. The research was done after observing 900 children who were infected with coronavirus and the findings revealed that these kids, who were protected against Influenza through the flu vaccine, had lower odds of experiencing symptoms, respiratory problems, or severe disease. This is because of what is called virus interference, which means that an earlier viral infection prohibits the growth of a new virus. This research on the pediatric population is being considered important as children are major carriers of viral infections and therefore, this kind of study helps in understanding how to keep them safe.

The symptoms of flu and coronavirus are alike in kids: cold, cough, and fever, which may trigger panic among parents that their child may have been infected with COVID-19 and they would rush to the doctor to get their kid-tested. In view of such situations that can arise during monsoon season where a child can be infected with seasonal influenza that a parent can confuse with corona symptoms, the Maharashtra pediatric and Covid-19 task force has recommended getting children vaccinated against flu. The objective of this suggestion is multi-fold: to avert panic among parents as kids won’t be as susceptible to influenza, preventing unnecessary RT-PCR tests, and de-congesting hospitals.

girl getting vaccine during COVID-19

The members of the task force and acclaimed pediatricians have suggested all children below the age of 18 years get flu shots to protect them from both flu and COVID-19. The doctors have also suggested that any child who has missed out on any immunization dose due to lockdown or any other reason, should complete the schedule as this will also help in preventing diseases.

The task force believes that around 90-95% of kids either remain asymptomatic to corona or get mild symptoms and therefore, they can be treated at home so a hospital visit needs to be avoided. Only the children with symptoms like fever for 102 degrees Fahrenheit over 3 days, oxygen saturation less than 94 %, less urine output or rashes and convulsions need to be admitted, the task force recommends.

The doctors also suggest normal precautions against both flu and corona, like washing hands, sanitizing constantly, keeping children away from sick people, wearing masks, maintaining a safe distance, disinfecting surfaces that are used frequently, drinking boiled water, avoiding outside food so that the children can stay healthy and learn to follow good hygiene.

Medically Reviewed by Dr Abhijit Salve(M.D. Paed; D.C.H Mumbai) , Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist.

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