Dr Margie shares a story of a little girl that nearly died after suffering with the flu virus.
“Two years ago I was treating a little girl who came into the ED with a five day history of a cough and fever, says Dr Margie.
She was slurring her words and quite confused. She needed to be admitted to the ICU.
It was confronting for me to see her like that. A swab confirmed she had Influenza A.
She was in hospital for weeks learning to sit up again, learning to eat, draw, speak and use the right side of her body.
Up to ten per cent of children admitted with the flu will develop neurological complications.
Half of all children who die from the flu in hospital were previously healthy.
Influenza is the most common vaccine-preventable disease that children are admitted to hospital with under the age of five and causes up to 1500 hospitalisations a year in children under five.”
The Flu Can Be Very Serious
Children can die from the neurological and other complications related to flu. A past study looking at all admissions to paediatric intensive care units in Australia and New Zealand over a 17-year period (1997-2013) for kids up to 16 years old found that half of the children who died with flu-related admissions were previously healthy kids. This is a very important reminder about how serious flu can be.
Kids are also more likely to catch the flu compared to adults (20-30% of kids compared to 10-30% of adults) and kids contribute greatly to the spreading of the disease in the community.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all children six months of age and older.
It is funded on the National Immunisation Program for all children at higher risk of complications (see list below). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between six months and five years and 15 years and over are also funded to receive free seasonal influenza vaccine.
It is critical that children at particular risk of severe complications from influenza are vaccinated, including those with:
•Severe asthma or other lung conditions
•Chronic neurological conditions
•Weakened immune systems due to drugs or diseases
•Other chronic conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, obesity
Please speak to your doctor if you are not sure if your child is at higher risk for getting the flu.
The vaccine is also strongly recommended for pregnant women at any time in the pregnancy and for carers of children who are at higher risk of catching the flu, to avoid them passing on the disease.
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