Flu can lead to some children developing a very high fever as well as further complications such as severe chest infections, pneumonia and painful ear infections. Healthy children under the age of five are more likely than any other age group to be admitted to hospital with flu.
Local mum Ellie Davy has spoken about the worry she suffered when her two-year old son, Henry, developed a lower respiratory tract infection – possibly this could have been related to flu – that led to them both spending the week before Christmas on a children’s ward.
In late December Ellie noticed her son was working very hard to breathe and had a bad cold.
She visited her GP who had concerns and asked for a community nurse to visit Ellie and Henry at home later that day.
When the nurse dropped in at Ellie’s home she found Henry’s oxygen levels were low and both his heart rate and temperature were high – it was clear Henry had to go to hospital.
Ellie explained, “Henry had been ill for a few days, but kids get bugs so I thought I’d just keep an eye on him.
“He’d been slowly getting worse so I took him to the doctor, I never expected to find myself later that day in the back of an ambulance speeding towards A&E.
“I was sick with worry and felt an enormous sense of guilt – I hate to admit it but Henry hadn’t been vaccinated against flu.
“I understood the vaccine was important, particularly because Henry had suffered from respiratory problems in the past, but I just kept putting it off.
“We’d just moved house so were between GPs and Henry’s normally such a healthy bubbly kid I put the vaccine to the back of my mind. In hindsight, big mistake.
“After being in A&E we were transferred to a children’s ward. Me and Henry spent a week there – the staff and care were fantastic but I would not recommend it.
“I’m sure any parent can understand that seeing your little one in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask on and surrounded by beeping machines just makes you want to cry.
“I’m just glad that after six nights in hospital we finally got to go home on Christmas Eve. It took a while but Henry’s now back to his old boisterous self.
“I’d like to ask other parents to please make sure your children have the flu vaccination.
“We all have busy lives and it’s easy to think ‘oh I’ll do that later’ but please trust me, it’s too late once your son or daughter is ill“.
All children aged between 2 and 3 can have a free flu vaccine through a quick and painless nasal spray. All parents and guardians need to do is contact their local GP surgery. Children from reception class to school year four are offered a nasal vaccination at school which parents give permission for.
Christine Khiroya, our nurse consultant for screening and immunisation, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and is particularly unpleasant for small children.
“If you’ve not vaccinated your child yet it’s not too late, there’s still time to make sure they’re protected for the rest of winter.
“Flu in toddlers is obviously horrible for them, but people may not realise small children act as ‘super-spreaders’ for the virus too. Young children touch everything and tend not to use tissues properly, so the chances of them passing flu on are very high.
“Vaccinating your child against flu is safe and the best way we have of protecting them and the rest of the family from the virus.”