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Influenza Shots Urged for Young Children

Each fall, you hear that influenza threatens older adults and folks with chronic ailments.

Most years, it's true that the death rate from the flu peaks in those older than 65, and that the rate of hospital stays is highest in people ages 85 and older. But children younger than 2 years have more severe complications from seasonal influenza and may require hospitalization. According to the CDC, about 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized each year because of flu complications.

Make it yearly

According to the CDC, children between ages 6 months and 19 years should be vaccinated annually against seasonal influenza.

The CDC says children younger than 8 who are immunized for the first time should get two full doses of vaccine, one month apart in order to be fully immunized. The CDC does not advise that infants younger than 6 months get the vaccine. A nasal spray vaccine is also available for children older than 2.

Recommended for pregnant women

Doctors recommend flu shots for pregnant women, too. Pregnant women who get the flu are at risk for serious illness, as well as pregnancy complications. And getting the flu shot will help protect your newborn as well, up to age 6 months. Flu shots are also recommended for breastfeeding mothers.

Vaccinations protect more than just the person getting the shot. For infants younger than 6 months, all adults who come in contact with the baby should be vaccinated so the flu does not spread to the child.

Then, during the flu season, keep the infant at home away from crowds, children other than siblings, and public places.

A baby with the flu can run a temperature, sometimes as high as 105 degrees F taken rectally. Be sure to contact your doctor for a fever of 103 degrees F or greater.

In babies younger than 3 months, a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher rectally can be a sign of serious illness.  If you have questions about the flu or your child's fever, call your doctor.