As hospital admissions rise, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is warning residents of the severity of flu infection in young children and reminding of the importance of the flu shot in protecting against the illness.
While the flu is a common seasonal illness, unlike the common cold, it can cause severe symptoms and complications. Local hospitals are currently seeing more cases of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) than COVID-19, in both children and adults. Children under 5 are especially at risk of severe complications due to their developing immune systems and small airways, and pediatric hospitals in the area are seeing surges in critical admissions, with the majority being cases of the flu and RSV.
The flu shot is the best protection against the flu and is highly recommended for those who are at high risk of complications, especially children 6 months to 5 years old. The flu shot is available free of charge to anyone 6 months and older who lives, works or attends school in Ontario.
Babies under 6 months old are not old enough to receive the flu shot and are at an even higher risk of complications and severe illness requiring hospitalization. If you have a young child in your life, getting your flu shot is recommended as it can prevent you from getting and passing the flu on to them.
“Children have generally been spared the worst effects of COVID-19, but the flu is different. Sadly, the flu can be very dangerous for children, and this year it has been particularly severe and arrived earlier than usual,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “Booking an appointment to get the flu shot for you and your child is one of the best things you can do to help keep them healthy and out of hospital.”
Other ways to help prevent the spread of illness include wearing a mask in crowded indoor public settings, washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer often, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, sneezing and coughing into your elbow or sleeve, and staying home if you feel sick.
If your child has severe symptoms and illness from the flu, do not hesitate to seek medical attention, including going to your local emergency room.
The flu shot is available now through participating pharmacies and health care providers. The EOHU also offers the flu shot at its offices to children under 5 and their household members by appointment only. For more information on the flu and the flu shot, please visit EOHU.ca.