Kids should get flu shot before Halloween, doctors say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents are being advised to get your children flu shots as soon as they become available this season, preferably before Halloween, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released a statement this week.

And parents are paying attention to the immediacy, including Eli McCullagh, the mother of 1-year-old Drew. The little girl recently had her 1-year doctor's appointment. McCullagh said her daughter got four shots, including the flu vaccination.

"The pediatrician asked if we also wanted to do the flu shot. We were a little bit hesitant because she was getting a bunch of other shots that day," the Chicago mother said. "The pediatrician was like, 'if you do it now then it will have time to settle into her system and be more effective.'"

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine, which significantly reduces a child's risk of severe influenza or death.

Dr. Renee Slade of Rush University Children's Hospital agrees children and adults, especially those who have younsters or work with kids, are vaccinated soon.

"We always recommend you get the flu vaccine as early as possible. The flu typically arrives in Chicago at its peak - December, January, February. But sometimes we start seeing cases in September and October," Dr. Slade said.

Dr. Slade said it's important to talk to your children's doctor about the number of doses they made need as well.

"If you're 6 months to 8 years old and you are getting the flu vaccine for the first time, you do need a second dose, which is kind of a booster," she said.

Drew's mom - Eli McCullagh - understands how important it is to get the shot now - and she's pleased her daughter is good-to-go for the flu season.

"So happy," she said. "We would rather nip it in the bud and get it taken care of now before the flu season hits. We know it was really bad last year, so we want to make sure we can do everything we can to make her safe and healthy."

Last season, the flu proved deadly for children:179 kids died. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of those children had not received a flu vaccination.

Although the focus has been on children, Dr. Slade said everyone who is around children should get a shot soon as well, including parents, grandparents, educators and daycare workers. The children "touch you, hug you. If you live with a child or take care of a child, you should definitely get a flu vaccine for yourself," she said.

Dr. Slade added that pregnant mothers and those who are breastfeeding can also get the flu shot. Ultimately, Dr. Slade said, it will provide some immunity to those babies as well.
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