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PREVENT

Reality check: Your kids should get the flu vaccine

Flu season is just around the corner. Did you know that children are among those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill? Influenza ("the flu") is a far more dangerous illness than the common cold for children. Every year, an average of 20,000 children, under the age of 5, are hospitalized due to complications from the flu. Children with chronic health problems, such as asthma and diabetes, are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications. In the 2013-2014 flu season, more than 100 children died from flu-related causes.

There is a simple way to help protect your child from becoming one of those statistics: make sure your child receives the flu vaccine every year. A new vaccine is needed yearly because the influenza virus changes as it moves around the world. This year's seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the particular influenza viruses that research suggests will be the most common during the upcoming season.

Young children who have never received a flu vaccine may need two half doses the first year. If your health care provider says your child needs a second dose, it's important to return for the second dose to ensure he or she is fully protected from the flu. If your child does need two doses, begin the process early. This will safeguard your child before the flu starts circulating in your community, since it takes about two weeks after the second dose for protection to begin.

If you're concerned your child can get the flu from the flu vaccine, don't be. Your child cannot get the flu from a flu vaccine. The viruses used in the shot are either killed or recombinant (there is no whole virus in the vaccine). The nasal-spray vaccine does contain live flu strains, but they are too weak to cause the flu. Occasional side effects may include soreness of the arm or leg in which the vaccine was given, and redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of the flu shot. Nasal congestion may occur after the administration of the nasal flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of seasonal flu vaccines.

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