As flu season rolls around, you may be thinking about whether it’s time for your flu shot — but what about your child? Even if your child is still an infant, this is the perfect time to make sure they — and you — have received the right vaccinations. There are three major vaccines critical to your baby’s health, and every parent should understand why it’s so important to protect against the flu, rotavirus, and pertussis.
“The benefits of these vaccines outweigh any potential risks,” says Helen Xenos, a family medicine doctor in Chicago. “Babies die of the flu, kids who get rotavirus often become dehydrated enough to have to go to the hospital, and pertussis can potentially be life-threatening in babies. So these vaccines are no-brainers.”
Getting a flu shot is important for people of all ages, but it can be particularly crucial for pregnant women. That’s because research shows that getting a flu shot while pregnant can offer some protection for newborns. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that, when compared to babies born to unvaccinated moms, infants born to mothers who received the flu vaccine were about 45 percent less likely to get the flu during their first flu season.
Children under the age of 5 are considered a high-risk group for influenza — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized every year due to complications from the flu.
A common virus that can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal symptoms, rotavirus accounts for 4-5 percent of all pediatric hospitalizations and infects nearly every child in the country younger than 5. A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that infants benefit from rotavirus vaccination, and since the vaccines became available in 2006, hospitalizations for the illness have steadily declined.
The two available vaccines are considered highly effective (between 85 and 98 percent) in preventing rotavirus in infants and young kids, and they can be administered orally — no shot required.
Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a contagious respiratory disease that causes violent, uncontrollable coughing and can be fatal in newborns. The vaccination for pertussis is included in the Tdap booster (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis), which adults should get every 10 years (children get five separate doses of the pertussis vaccination, which should begin between 15-18 months).
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting a flu shot and a vaccination for pertussis. Once your baby is born, talk to your pediatrician about when to schedule your child’s first rotavirus, pertussis, and flu vaccinations.
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