Bangor toddler Anna has the best protection against the flu

Friday, 20 October 2017 – Health Protection
Bangor toddler Anna has the best protection against the flu

The seasonal flu vaccination programme for 2017/18 is under way and one little girl is already prepared for the winter flu season. Anna Sheridan (2) from Bangor, Co Down, has been to her local GP surgery and had her flu nasal spray.

As mum Sharon Sheridan explains: “I was aware of the flu vaccine as my boys are in primary school and have been getting the nasal spray for the last couple of years. So there was no question when it came to Anna getting the vaccine. This is the first time that she has been eligible to receive it, but the fact that it comes as a nasal spray means that she barely even noticed that she had received it.”

The flu virus spreads easily and quickly, infecting both adults and children alike. Flu can cause the same unpleasant symptoms in children as it does with adults – fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, headache and extreme tiredness. These symptoms can last between two and seven days and for some can lead to serious illness and result in a stay in hospital. This can lead to days spent in bed rather than being at school or nursery, with parents having to stay at home to care for sick children. This can cause considerable inconvenience for the whole family, made all the more difficult if one or both of the parents catches flu as well.

Complications arising from flu can include bronchitis, pneumonia and painful middle ear infection. In severe cases, which are very rare, flu can lead to disability and even death. Younger children are more at risk and more likely to end up in hospital.

These were the stark facts that grabbed Sharon’s attention: “My husband works in the healthcare profession so between us talking about flu and seeing the leaflet detailing all these risks, it was an easy decision to take up the offer of the vaccine for Anna.” she said.

The virus spreads through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth. Other people then breathe in the virus directly or pick it up by touching surfaces on which it has landed. Because young children don’t always cover their noses or mouths when coughing or sneezing they can spread the virus very quickly.

“I now know going into the flu season that my daughter is better protected and I would encourage other mums and dads to get their pre-school children’s vaccinated as well. There is no jab – it’s just a squirt up the nose.”

Fluenz Tetra® is given as a spray up each nostril. The child can breathe normally while the vaccine is being administered and there is no need to actively inhale or sniff.

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, explains the importance of the flu vaccine: “Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.

“Traditionally uptake rates for flu vaccination are very high in Northern Ireland, which is a result of the hard work and dedication from all involved in health and social care, and the excellent response from patients, taking their GP’s advice that they need the vaccine. So make sure everyone who is eligible for the vaccine gets it – whether they are two years old or over 65, it is important that they get vaccinated.”

As it takes approximately two weeks following vaccination to develop maximum protection against flu, it is important to get vaccinated early. Flu vaccination clinics are just getting started and everyone should aim to have the vaccine by early December. If you wait until flu starts circulating, it may be too late for the vaccine to protect you.

Pre-school children who are aged two years or over are eligible to receive the vaccine. These children will be offered the vaccine at their GP’s surgery. Meanwhile, children in primaries one to seven will be offered the vaccine in school. In addition, people over 65, ‘at risk’ children and adults, and pregnant women, can receive the flu jab at their doctor’s surgery.

For further information see: www.fluawareni.info or www.pha.site/fluleaflets