By Danielle Braff
Anyone younger than 6 months can’t get a flu shot. Baby immune systems aren’t as good at warding off illnesses as they are when they get older, and children younger than 2 are at risk for serious complications if they get the flu.
The flu is dreadful for everyone, but it can be life-threatening for infants.
Every year, about 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized with flu complications including pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even healthy infants or young children can get very sick from the flu, so this needs to be taken incredibly seriously, says the CDC.
You could try to prevent your infant or baby from getting the flu by washing your hands with soap and water before and after taking care of your child, and by limiting your baby’s contact with others.
But if this doesn’t work, and your young child has any flu symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately. These symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, a sore throat, a cough, runny or stuffy nose, severe or persistent vomiting, difficulty breathing or drowsiness. It may be difficult to determine if a baby has a headache or a sore throat, but if he’s clutching his head or throat, or if he’s crying more than usual, it’s probably a safe bet to go to the doctor.
While babies can’t take typical cold and flu medications, they can take antiviral drugs, which are approved for infants as young as 2 weeks, and these work best if they are taken within the first 48 hours of getting sick.