Dear Doctor,
Is it advisable to give my 4-year-old the flu jab? Ever since she started pre-school last year, she has been falling sick every month. After the flu or cold, the phlegm takes a long time to go away and she develops an ear infection which becomes very painful. Please advise.

Samantha Lee, Cheras

 

ANSWER:
Influenza (“the flu”) is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with influenza; thousands of children are hospitalised and some children die from flu. Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious influenza related complications.

Children younger than 5 years and especially those younger than 2 years, are at high risk of serious influenza complications.

The influenza vaccine offers the best defence against getting the flu and spreading it to others. Getting vaccinated can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed work and school days, and prevent flu-related hospitalisations and deaths in children. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine, especially those with chronic health problems, including asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy), chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, kidney or liver disorders.

Traditional flu vaccines are made to protect against an influenza A virus and an influenza B virus. The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and could include mild soreness at the injection site and a mild fever or aching for the first day or two after immunisation.

Babies and children 6 months to 9 years old, who have never had a flu shot will need two doses of the vaccine, given at least four weeks apart. Children who have had one or more doses of the flu shot in the past will only need one dose per year.

You can visit your paediatrician to arrange for flu vaccine for your children.


The influenza vaccine is very safe. Credit: pediatric-partners.com

 

Answers provided by Dr Lim Kok Chong
consultant paediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital — Bukit Rimau.

 

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