Children's Health

Flu Vaccine Helps Keep Kids Healthy

Infectious Disease Specialist Urges Vaccination

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the influenza virus is likely to infect 20 percent of Americans this year. Commonly called “the flu,” influenza is a virus which infects the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness but can often be prevented.

“Children are among the most likely to be impacted by influenza,” said Karen Dahl, MD, infectious disease, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Children as young as six months can get the flu vaccine this fall and should be vaccinated each and every year to provide them with the best protection.”


Parents and children alike are encouraged to prevent the spread of viruses.

Steps include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often as it will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth.

“The best way to prevent influenza is by vaccination,” added Dahl. “However, receiving the vaccination doesn’t guarantee an illness-free season. There are other germs, such as parainfluenza virus, that we have no vaccine for and need to use common sense to avoid. If parents and children can embrace a two-step philosophy-vaccination and common sense-the likelihood of contracting viruses is significantly reduced.”


Influenza is marked by symptoms including:

  • Sudden fever
  • Cough
  • Achy muscles
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Fatigue


Antiviral medication may be prescribed if the child is diagnosed within the first two days of symptoms. Antiviral medication can shorten the duration of the influenza illness but is not effective for other viruses obtained in the fall and winter.

Symptoms of fall and winter time illnesses can be reduced by:

  • Providing children acetaminophen or ibuprofen in appropriate doses as recommended by their pediatrician.
  • Drinking lots of liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • Ensuring extra rest in bed.

Influenza vaccinations for children are available at many pediatricians’ offices as well as through Spectrum Health Primary Care Partners, Spectrum Health Urgent Care and Spectrum Health Visiting Nurse Association. Visit for dates, times and locations.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric subspecialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 7,600 inpatients and 190,000 outpatients annually. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation. Visit for more information.