Flu Vaccines Cut Kids' Doctor Visits

Reminder: Yearly Flu Vaccination Is Recommended for All Kids Aged 6 Months to 5 Years

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 7, 2007 -- There is more incentive to get an annual flu vaccine for kids: It can make life easier on parents, researchers say.

If you have children 6 months to 5 years old, they're due for their yearly flu vaccination, and new research shows that those flu vaccines may mean fewer trips to the doctor's office.

The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccinations for children who are 6 months to 5 years old. It's just about time to make that appointment, since the CDC says October and November are the best months to get vaccinated (though you can still get vaccinated in December or later).

Last year's flu vaccination won't do. Experts make a new flu vaccine every year, based on the flu strains they expect to be most common in the upcoming flu season.

A new study shows that if half of the 18 million children in the U.S. who are 6 months to 5 years old got a flu vaccine, the number of children in that age range hospitalized for flu during that flu season would drop by about 2,250 kids and up to 650,000 fewer children would see doctors for flu.

A more effective vaccine would further cut hospitalizations and doctor visits, write Elizabeth Lewis, MD, and colleagues in the journal Pediatrics.

Lewis worked on the study while with Vanderbilt University's medical school. She now works in the pediatrics department of MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.

She points out that vaccinating children against flu may also benefit people who spend time with kids.

"I'd advise parents to have their children vaccinated to protect their own health, the health of grandparents and other family members, and the health of other children they are around," Lewis says in a news release.

Of course, yearly flu vaccinations aren't just for kids. The CDC also recommends yearly flu vaccines, which are the single best way to protect against flu, for the following groups:

  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 50 and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • People living with people at high risk of flu complications
  • People living with or caring for children less than 6 months old
  • Health care workers

Anyone else can get vaccinated against the flu as long as they're at least 6 months old and don't have any medical reasons not to get vaccinate.

SOURCES: Lewis, E. Pediatrics, September 2007; vol 120: pp 467-472. CDC: "Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) Vaccine." News release, Massachusetts General Hospital.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.



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