Archives for February 2018

Seasonal Flu: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Mary Cataletto, MD, MMM, FAAP

Mary Cataletto, MD, MMM, FAAP

(Dr. Mary Cataletto, MD, MMM, FAAP, FCCP is a pediatric pulmonologist and Associate Director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at NYU Winthrop Hospital.  She is chair elect for Pediatric Chest Medicine NetWork of the American College of Chest Physicians and past chair of the Asthma Coalition of Long Island.  She is the Nassau Pediatric Society Representative to NYS AAP Chapter 2.)

Fourth Child in NYC Dies of Seasonal Flu: What Every Parent Needs to Know

This week as the news of the fourth pediatric death in New York City hit the press, parents are asking what they can do to protect their children.  They turn to their pediatricians to put these findings into perspective, address concerns and to offer actionable strategies to modify risk factors.

This year’s flu season has been particularly severe and is likely to last several more weeks, possibly months.  The Centers for Disease Control have consistently recommended universal immunization against influenza for children ages 6 months and above through adulthood highlighting that children under age 5 years, particularly those under age 2 years as well as pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic medical illnesses are at increased risk for flu related complications and hospitalizations.

Governor Cuomo declared a statewide influenza public health emergency on January 25, 2018.  As a result pharmacists are temporarily permitted to administer flu vaccines to children between 2 and 17 years of age.  Promotional campaigns can be seen throughout the state on print, social and other media sources.  Free flu shots are now available at multiple locations.

We know that the best defense against the seasonal flu is influenza immunization.  Immunization should begin as soon as the vaccine is available in the Fall.  This is especially important for those children between ages 6 months through 8 years who are receiving the vaccine for the first time because they will need to receive 2 doses given at an interval of about 28 days.  Protection for infants who are too young to receive the flu shot (<6 months) is best offered by immunizing parents, older siblings and caretakers as well as avoiding sick contacts.  Immunization against seasonal flu is now considered standard of care for all health care professionals.  They receive the flu vaccine not only for themselves but to protect the children they care for in offices, hospitals and community.

There are still a few stragglers, a few non believers, a few who were too busy to have their children immunized.  As long as influenza is prevalent in your community, it is not too late to get a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control supports this decision with the following findings:

  • The flu shot minimize the risk of contracting the flu by approximately 1/3
  • Flu season is likely to last several more months and could even stretch into May
  • The flu shot carries a low risk of significant side effects
  • There are no effective alternatives

What else can parents can parents do to protect their children and help to limit the spread of influenza?

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Keep your child home if they are sick
  • Practice healthy habits:
    • Cover your cough and sneezes
    • Wash your hands often
    • Avoid touching your eyed, nose and mouth
  • Be sure your child’s school and daycare centers have provisions to
    • Separate sick children from the rest of the group while they are waiting to be picked up
  • If you think your child may have the flu contact your pediatrician. Antivirals, such as Tamiflu, work best if given within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Additional information on flu surveillance and current recommendations for both parents and providers can be accessed at www.cdc.gov.