If you're thinking about skipping flu vaccination for your family this year, your child has probably never had influenza -- which can leave her coughing, feverish, and completely wiped out for a whole week. "Unfortunately, many parents consider the flu to be nothing more than a slightly nastier version of a cold. It's actually a very serious, potentially fatal illness," says Parents advisor Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore. Complications of the flu include pneumonia, antibiotic-resistant staph infections, and ear and sinus infections. Amazingly, only 18 percent of children ages 6 months to 2 years are vaccinated -- despite the fact that an estimated 20,000 children under the age of five with influenza need to be hospitalized each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Kids who have a chronic medical condition like asthma or diabetes are also at particular risk; they are five times more likely to be hospitalized than healthier children.
The CDC now recommends that all children ages 6 months up to their 19th birthday get a seasonal flu vaccine. And if there's an infant in your family, it's important that all family members and caregivers be immunized.