What is influenza

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

PS: Not to be confused with H. Influenza which is a bacterial infection

How can we protect against flu

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.The upcoming season’s flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine.

What are the flu vaccines available in the market

Live and Killed vaccines are available in the market. Live flu vaccines contain live but inactive form of the virus and contains three different types of flu virus including H1N1(Swine Flu). Live vaccines can be given from 2 years onwards. Killed Vaccines dont have any live virus and must be given Intramuscularly as an injection from 6 month onwards.

Is the vaccine effective

The Vaccine takes “at least two weeks” to develop immunity and provides “about 60-80 per cent protection for about a year. Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.

What is the recommendation for Flu Vaccine

Flu Vaccine is not yet part of the routine immunisation schedule published by Indian academy of Paediatrics. In view of the increasing number of flu cases every year Indian council for Medical research (ICMR) recommends flu vaccine for children under the age of five years and in older children at risk of getting flu infection. An be given. The Vaccine is given as an Intramuscular(IM) injection in children less than 2 years, and via  nasal route or Intramuscular injection  from 2 years onwards as below

>6 months- 9years

1st time given 2 doses 1 month apart.

>9 years

one dose only.

Thereafter the vaccine is repeated annually.

Who cannot have the flu vaccine

  • Children younger than 6 months are too young to get a flu shot
  • People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.

What are the side effects from Flu Vaccine

The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated with influenza illness. In children, side effects from the nasal spray may include runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of bad case of flu.

“Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Indian Academy of pediatrics

Authour: Dr.S.Boopathi MD, DNB, MRCPCH(UK)