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A Flu Alert For Kids With Developmental Delays And Other Special Needs

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

I try my best to be diligent about Max’s care but one thing I am crazy on top of is getting him the flu shot as soon as it’s available. I’ve been known to call our pediatrician’s office daily in October, to see when they will have shots in stock. I have no issues with being a parent pest, because I know that kids with neurologic disorders are particularly vulnerable to the flu’s complications; scarily, a disproportionate number die every year from it. And so, the flu epidemic that’s spread around the country is of particular concern for children with special needs. (Here’s a state-by-state look at flu activity).

“Flu is particularly dangerous for people who may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing or clearing fluids from their airways,” Georgina Peacock, a pediatrician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has explained. “These problems are sometimes experienced by children with neurologic disorders.”

Over the summer, the CDC released a study showing that among the 336 children with underlying medical conditions who died during the 2009 H1NI pandemic, 64 percent had a neurologic disorder such as intellectual disability, cerebral palsy or epilepsy. Of those with verified vaccinations, only 23 percent were vaccinated against the seasonal flu and 3 percent against the 2009 H1N1.

Doctors still recommend that people with disabilities and caregivers get a shot if they haven’t yet, since the flu season extends till February—and in any case, the shot can mitigate symptoms. Just be aware that the the vaccine takes two weeks to work, per the CDC’s website.

A little obsessiveness about washing hands with soap and water is a Good Thing. For more flu prevention tips, see Stay Healthy All Winter.


Image of sign about getting flu shot via Shutterstock

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