This time of year in pediatrics, we come to expect a batting order with croup leading off, followed by RSV, then influenza batting third (please forgive the baseball references, but the Mets are in the playoffs for the first time in 9 years!). Each of these conditions are caused by viruses, which means antibiotics are ineffective in treating them. This discussion will address influenza only.
Influenza is an acute infection of the respiratory tract, caused by viral influenza A or B. The infection can affect the upper and lower respiratory tract, and the most common symptoms are runny nose, cough, fever, chills, headache and body aches (myalgia). It typically occurs during the winter, and the virus is spread through inhalation of infected respiratory secretions.
Each year, there are very subtle changes in the proteins that make up the seasonal flu virus, and this is the reason new vaccines are required. The vaccine comes in an intranasal (inhaled) form or an injection. One vaccine is not preferable over the other, though the intranasal vaccine is available only for people aged 2-49 years, who don’t have a history of lower respiratory-tract problems such as asthma or acute wheezing. This year, the dosing schedule has changed, and children between 6 months and 8 years of age who have had 2 or more doses of the flu-vaccine BEFORE July 1, 2015 will only need to have ONE dose this year. The two doses DO NOT have to be in the same season.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an annual flu-vaccine for all people 6 months and older, but especially those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart-disease, immunosuppression, or neurodevelopmental disorder. Children under 2 years of age are at an increased risk of hospitalization and complications due to influenza.
Unfortunately, vaccines are not 100% effective, and last year’s flu-vaccine was not well matched with the circulating strains of the virus. Many people who were vaccinated still came down with the flu. Still, the vaccine is safe and will not cause you to catch the flu as is commonly feared.
If you are on the fence about whether or not you should vaccinate your child, discuss your options with your pediatrician.
Dr. Mark Garabedian practices at Hanover Pediatrics.He is board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to joining Bon Secours Medical Group, Dr. Garabedian was in private practice in Southampton, New York, for 16 years.