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It’s Time for Kids to Get Flu Shots

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- Flu season is here, and many parents have
concerns about whether to get their children vaccinated, and
when. The time is now, said Dennis A. Clements, M.D., Chief of
Children's
Primary Care
at Duke University Medical Center.

Though several batches of flu vaccine have been recalled
because of potentially inadequate potency, there is currently
no shortage and vaccination is the best way to protect kids
against the flu and its complications, Clements said.

Children, especially those under the age of two, are more
likely to be hospitalized due to complications from the flu,
Clements said. These complications can include pneumonia,
dehydration and ear infections. Rarely, complications from the
flu can lead to death.

Flu shots are approved for use in children older than six
months, and are made from inactivated flu virus, so the
vaccination itself will not make a child sick. Children under
eight require two shots given one month apart the first year
they receive the vaccine, so Clements recommends getting
children vaccinated as soon as possible if they haven't been
already. The ideal months for vaccination are October and
November, and flu season typically peaks in February.

"We've already seen flu this season in Charlotte, so we can
only assume that we could see some flu activity in other areas
of the state soon," he said.

Some parents are concerned about the presence of a
preservative in flu vaccine called Thimerosal, which contains
mercury. Mercury has been purportedly linked to autism and as a
precaution it has been removed from all childhood vaccines. But
it is still present in small quantities in multi-dose vials of
influenza vaccines, which can be given to both adult and older
pediatric populations.

Clements said the amount and type of mercury in flu shots is
not worrisome to him, but he respects parents' rights to be
concerned. A Thimerosal-free vaccine has been produced by some
vaccine makers, and if parents are worried they can discuss the
issue with their doctors and ask if this alternative is
available at their practice. Most offices will have this
preservative-free influenza vaccine available, primarily for
children under three.

Influenza disease symptoms in children can be alleviated
with rest, drinking fluids, using a humidifier and taking
over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or
acetaminophen, Clements said. Children and adolescents with the
flu should not take aspirin-containing products because of the
risk of Reye's Syndrome, a rare and often fatal condition.
Antibiotics do not help treat the flu since it is a viral --
not a bacterial -- infection. If symptoms persist or fever
recurs after appearing to get better, it is important to have a
physician see your child.

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