Saturday, July 13, 2024

Children below 5 years could be 7 times more at risk of hospitalization because of flu

The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and the World Health Organization recommend annual vaccination for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Children are vulnerable to the flu throughout the year especially during the winters and monsoons. It may take about 2 weeks to develop antibodies after getting the vaccination, which is why it should be taken 2 to 4 weeks before the monsoon or winter. Children under 5 years are not only at a higher risk of complications from the flu but can also spread the infection to others in the community.

Speaking about the need for Annual 4in1 Flu vaccination, Dr. Dhananjay Mangal, Consulting Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Director, Babylon Hospital said, “Flu is a respiratory viral infection, which in young children under five years can show severe symptoms and cause serious health complications. It is therefore advisable to give them the annual 4in1 flu vaccination and do it before the winters because we have noticed that the flu infection increases during this season.” 

Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and it affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Some common symptoms are cough, fever, chills, sore throat, tiredness, muscle ache and headache. The virus can spread easily from a sick person when they speak, sneeze, or cough. Respiratory droplets that contain the virus can directly reach healthy people, or indirectly if they fall on surfaces e.g., the door that is then touched by someone who is not sick. Many recover in a few days or weeks. But children under the age of 5 years, especially those who are under 2 years; and those with long-term medical conditions may sometimes
become very sick with the flu and need to be hospitalized. Children may have serious complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis because their immune system is not fully developed. Studies show that 11% of outpatient children under 5 years of age with acute respiratory infections had flu in India. The mortality rate because of influenza is also high in children below 5 years of age. Nearly 10 out of 1,00,000 children can die because of influenza in India.

There are many flu viruses that can cause infection. One amongst these is the H1N1 virus which is a type of ‘swine flu’ virus. 4-in-1 flu vaccination can help protect against most common four variants. These strains keep changing constantly. So, Flu vaccination is reviewed every year and it may be changed, depending on what viruses are causing the disease. For this reason, and because protection from the vaccination may reduce with time, it is recommended by health experts that children get vaccinated once a year.

The IAP recommends that children who suffer from chronic heart disease, respiratory disease like asthma, diabetic conditions, immunodeficiency (like HIV) or other chronic conditions are at higher risk of contracting fluand should get the annual flu vaccination even after the age of 5 years. Parents should consult their paediatricians to know more.

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