Time to get children vaccinated against flu

Dr Vindi Bhandal. EMN-191118-152907001
Dr Vindi Bhandal. EMN-191118-152907001

Dr Vindi Bhandal, senior partner with Sleaford Medical Group, writes each month on an aspect of health and wellbeing relevant to local readers - this time she talks about flu...

As we approach the winter season, I would like to remind parents to think about vaccinating children against flu. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children and can lead to conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia which may require hospitalisation.

The nasal flu spray vaccine is offered every year to young children to help protect against flu. It is free for children aged between two and three, all primary school children and children aged two to 17 with long term conditions.

Primary school children will have been offered the vaccine at school, children aged two and three can be given the vaccination at their doctor’s surgery. Children with long term conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, neurological problems and liver or kidney diseases will have been offered the vaccination as they are more likely to get severely ill if they catch flu.

If your child is aged between six months and two years and in a high risk group, they will be offered an injected flu vaccine.

The nasal vaccine is only licensed for children over two, it has few side effects, possibly a runny nose for a few days, the vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril, being quick and painless.

Children may not be able to have the nasal vaccine if they have a weakened immune system, severe egg allergy or a severe asthma exacerbation, in which case they may be offered the injected flu vaccine.

The nasal flu vaccine has a good safety record, it is a live vaccine containing weakened flu viruses that do not cause flu in children. It helps to build up immunity to flu and because the virus changes each year, a new nasal spray vaccine has to be given each year.

The nasal flu vaccine helps to protect your child from flu but also helps stop the spread of flu, protecting other more vulnerable individuals, such as babies, older people, pregnant women and people with long term illness.

Most children only need a single dose of the nasal spray vaccine, so if your child has not had the nasal flu vaccine I would strongly urge you to go to your surgery where the practice nurse will be able to administer the vaccine.