Paediatricians are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible, ideally before wintertime.
Medics see the maximum number of infections between August and February — a period widely regarded as the ‘flu season’.
With Dubai schools set to return to full in-person learning from October 3, parents are expressing concern about their children’s health.
But doctors told Khaleej Times that getting an influenza shot is one way to keep kids safe, especially because the pandemic has not yet receded. Moreover, the symptoms for Covid-19 and the flu are so similar that getting infected can be confusing.
Vaccines are a small inactive part of the virus that gets injected in the body. This stimulates the body’s immune system, producing flu-specific antibodies, doctors said.
If individuals come across the real virus, the body already has antibodies, which protects them from getting infected entirely or may pass as a mild infection.
Dr Manjunath M Nagalli, specialist paediatrician at Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah, said: “All children above the age of six months may take the flu shot to protect themselves from influenza. It is ideal that children get the jab by September or October — that is, before the start of the winter season.”
“With schools reopened, it is crucial that parents ensure their child is vaccinated. Otherwise, there are chances that the child will spread the disease to other children in the classroom.”
Doctors stressed that the flu vaccine does not cause any long-term reactions. However, some may experience a low-grade fever, redness or pain at the injected spot.
Dr Shahid Gauhar, specialist paediatrician and neonatologist at Prime Hospital, said any vaccine can be taken between a gap of six weeks.
“Any child who has received the Covid-19 vaccine can be given the flu vaccine after a gap of six weeks,” he said.
Dr Gauhar added that children who become infected with the flu virus are more susceptible to other infections, as well.
“The immunity of the child is suppressed and they become vulnerable to catch secondary infections. They can even get Covid-19,” he said.
Dr Gouli Chandrasekhar, specialist paediatrician at Aster Clinic, Abu Shagara, said the best way to reduce the risk of flu and associated complications is to get vaccinated every year.
“Children who are allergic to eggs and who have had a reaction to previous flu vaccines are advised not to take the flu vaccine,” he said.
The vaccine also cannot be administered to children below six months. But if mothers take the vaccine when they are pregnant, they can pass the anti-bodies to their child and protect them, said Dr Shoaib Shahzad Khan, department head of paediatrics and neonatology at Canadian Specialist Hospital.
“Children below the age of five are most at risk of complications from the flu virus. Most people usually recover within the span of a few days or two weeks after being infected,” he said.
“However, it can become very serious in some people if it is left untreated. It can develop into more serious health problems, such as infections in the lungs, ear, sinus and overall worsening of chronic health problems. For some people, it can even be life-threatening.”