Toddlers and the Flu Vaccine

Child with flu resizedEvery parent, who has children under the age of five, quickly discovers that little kids are “germ spreaders.” One cannot be too surprised by this revelation.

Toddlers, for example, tend to put things into their mouths, to pick their noses, and to strongly resists all parental attempts to wash their little faces and hands. As such, it is recommended that toddlers receive the flu vaccine.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the LAIV (live attenuated influenza vaccine) be given to children ages 2 through 8 years old. In addition, they recommend that kids between age 2 and 8 receive the flu vaccine in the form of a nasal spray instead of a shot.

Why a nasal spray? Dr. William Schaffner, who is a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School, says the mist form of the flu vaccine provides broader coverage against whatever altered strains of the flu may be around.

He also notes that the flu nasal spray is made with a weakened version of live flu virus. It more closely mimics a real infection, and might boost the body’s immune response more than a flu shot would.

On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatricians has slightly different advice. They feel that healthy kids, who are between the ages of 2 and 8, can benefit from either version of the flu vaccine. In addition, they recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine – including women who are pregnant. That vaccine could help protect the newborn baby during the first six months of his or her life, when the baby is too young for a flu vaccine.

The Department of Health in the United Kingdom recommends that the “under fives” receive the flu vaccine. They note that toddlers and pre-schoolers who catch the flu can easily spread it to grandparents and other relatives. The flu vaccine is available as either a shot or nasal spray in the UK.

As a group, toddlers are not known for being good at sharing. Unfortunately, they are still very able to “share” the flu with their family members (and the toddlers and staff at day care). No one enjoys having the flu, but little kids are especially miserable when they catch it. One way to avoid having your entire family struggle through the flu season is to make sure everyone who is able to be vaccinated receives the flu shot or flu nasal spray.

The CDC points out that anyone can get the flu and that serious problems related to the flu can happen to people of any age. Some people who get the flu develop complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. The flu can make chronic health problems worse.

Image by Matteo Bagnoli on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* When Your Toddler is Sick

* The Flu Bug Comes for a Visit

* Flu Shots for Toddlers