Public Health England is encouraging parents and carers to help protect their children from flu this winter, as the largest ever programme vaccinating children against it gets underway. This year, the vaccine is being offered to 2 – 4 year-olds, those in school years 1 and 2, and is being extended to school year 3.
But with a survey of parents of eligible children showing nearly 4 out of 10 are unaware of the nasal spray, a campaign has been launched to raise awareness of flu vaccination among parents and at risk groups, such as pregnant women. Although 55% of parents understand the need for their children to be vaccinated every year, nearly 1 in 8 have either never given vaccination any thought, or report that the main thing putting them off vaccination is that their children seldom get flu.
Children have the same symptoms as adults including fever, chills, aching muscles, headaches and a sore throat. More than one in three parents think children recover from flu in a couple of days. In fact, sometimes children need up to a week in bed before they are on the mend. Some children develop a very high fever or complications from flu, such bronchitis or pneumonia. Children in the under 5 age group are more at risk of being admitted to hospital due to flu than any other age group.
Ensuring that young ones are vaccinated can reduce the spread of this infectious disease amongst the whole family, protecting those who are vulnerable like grandparents. Flu can be particularly dangerous for those with long-term health conditions. These include: chronic respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis or emphysema; heart, kidney or liver disease; chronic neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy; and diabetes.
The free flu vaccine is also available for pregnant women. Research shows that around four in 10 pregnant women got their jab last year.
Dr Chintal Patel, The Belgravia Surgery, comments: “Flu can be much more dangerous for children than parents realise. Data shows that children under the age of 5 are most likely to be admitted to hospital for flu compared to any other age group.
Dr Saral Anand, Wellington Health Centre, said: “Let’s be clear on the facts, flu can cause serious complications for pregnant women and their babies. The safest way to help protect them both is the flu vaccine.
Visit www.nhs.uk/staywell for more details on how to help you and your family to stay well this winter.