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Flu in Young Children 16 January 2004

Reports indicate that the levels of flu are levelling off in England and coming down in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The group, most affected are 0-4 year olds and 15-44 year olds.

Flu in children

Children aged 0-4 seem to be one of the main age groups affected by the flu this year. The reason for this is there had been no major outbreak if flu in the last 3 years and children in the 0-4 year age group are often encountering the flu virus for the first time in their life. In view of this, they do not have any immunity against flu and are most susceptible.

There have been some deaths in England and Scotland and this has caused a lot of concern among parents of young children. One specific issue which many parents have raised is whether they should get their children vaccinated against flu.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the independent body of medical experts which provides advice to UK health departments on immunisation and vaccination issues, met recently to review the advice with regard to flu vaccination. The Committee re-affirmed the existing policy i.e. flu vaccination should continue to be offered to those in ‘high risk groups’ and ‘over 65’s’. The Committee further highlighted the need for children over the age of 6 months in the high risk groups to be vaccinated; it is estimated that the uptake among children in high risk groups is around 10%.

Advice to Parents of Young Children

  • If your child is in a high risk group (Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Asthma, Kidney disease, has any disease or is on medication which can impair the immunity), please ensure that the child, if over 6 months, is vaccinated against flu. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
  • Normal healthy children do not need to be vaccinated.
  • There is very little one can do to prevent getting flu (apart from the vaccination for high risk groups). Do not keep your children away from school, nursery or playgroup if there are cases of flu as this has not been shown to help in preventing flu.
  • If your child gets flu, give paracetamol and plenty of fluids. If you are concerned, seek advice from your doctor.

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