The influenza virus, which has many different strains, is the cause of many upper respiratory infections that can range from mild infections to severe, complicated cases. Documented cases of influenza infection in the United States usually begin in mid-October and extend through mid-April. The symptoms may include, but are not limited to: fever, cough, headache, and muscle aches.
The onset of fever is clinically important, since it is often the first symptom to appear. Fevers can range from 100-104°F, and typically tend to be in the higher range in affected children. Not only do children tend to have fevers in the higher range, but children have a higher rate of infection from the influenza virus than adults do, probably because children’s immune systems are encountering influenza virus for the first time. Whereas coughing tends to be the most common and oftentimes disconcerting symptom, muscle aches can be quite painful for some patients. Influenza can also lead to viral as well as bacterial pneumonia.
Since the influenza virus can lead to significant illnesses, researchers have developed a vaccine that aids in the prevention of infection from influenza. The strain of the virus changes form year to year, prompting the reformulation of the vaccine form year to year. Therefore, all persons who need protection from infection will have to be vaccinated on a yearly basis.
There are two types of vaccines:
This vaccine contains specific strains of Influenza A and B, but it is inactivated. In other words, it consists of killed vaccine. Therefore, the influenza virus cannot be transmitted to other persons via this vaccine. It is administered as an injection, intramuscularly. This particular vaccine is recommended for:
- Children aged 6-23 months
- All children who have:
- kidney disease
- heart disease
- blood disorders (i.e., sickle cell anemia, etc.)
- compromised immune systems
- Patients who are living with family members who are described in 1 and 2
This vaccine also contains specific strains of Influenza A and B, but it contains the live virus, and is administered intranasally (a spray into the nostrils). It is recommended for patients aged 2-49 years old. Flumist is not recommended for those children who:
- Are less than 2 years old
- Have been diagnosed with chronic disorders ( i.e., asthma, heart disease, etc.) or those with compromised immune systems
Both of these vaccines are manufactured using eggs. If your child has a severe egg allergy please discuss flu vaccine recommendations with their allergist.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years who are getting flu vaccine for the first time require 2 doses. They should receive their first dose as soon as possible after vaccine becomes available, and the second dose ≥4 weeks later. After a patient has received the initial 2 dose series, only 1 vaccine dose per year will be needed during future flu seasons.
As with all vaccines, neither the flu shot nor FluMist is 100% effective. Even if a patient has been immunized against the influenza virus, the possibility of becoming infected with influenza still exists, but the symptoms will likely be milder.
Current flu activity map CDC: