Flu Vaccination and precautions to help prevent childhood illness

With winter fast approaching and the arrival of cold weather, the NHS in the South West is urging parents of young children to take steps to ward off serious illnesses over the coming months.

The latest figures show that between October 2021 and September 2022 there has been an 15% increase in the number of emergency hospital admissions for children compared to October 2020 to September 2021.

Health leaders are promoting messages about managing childhood asthma, advice on respiratory illnesses and about the need for and benefits of flu vaccine programme.

Dr Michael Marsh, Medical Director NHS England South West said: “Over the winter period children can be exposed to more things that can trigger their asthma. Colds and flu viruses and dust mites are some of the biggest culprits.

“Some children, over the summer and autumn periods, may have fallen out of their usual preventer inhaler routines which can leave them much more vulnerable to an asthma attack.

“There are a few key things parents can do to prevent their children having an asthma attack such as ensuring  they take their preventer inhaler as this helps reduce inflammation in their airways and so helps to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

“We would encourage parents to ensure that their child has their reliever inhaler and spacer at school to use if they have asthma symptoms and ensure their child has a yearly review with their GP or asthma nurse.

Having vaccinations, especially a flu vaccine is so important to help reduce flu and the impact this can have on children, especially those with asthma.”

Dr Julie Yates, Lead Consultant for Screening and Immunisation for NHS England South West recommends that all children aged 2 to 14 years old, and those aged up to 17 if they have any underlying health conditions, get the free flu vaccine.

She said: “ The flu vaccine helps to protect people from flu and also from becoming seriously unwell with complications of flu such as bronchitis and pneumonia caused by secondary infections like Group A strep.

Flu vaccine is normally given in schools for those aged 4-14 years. If your child has missed the session at their school, you child’s school will be able to put you in touch with the immunisation team who will advise on how to get them vaccinated.

For children aged 2-3 years and those children older than 14 with underlying health conditions, please contact your GP practice to make an appointment.”

There is plenty of flu vaccine available and it is a good match for the strain currently circulating in the community.