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Why Do Kids Die With the Flu?

There is one question that few parents or pediatricians will ever likely be able to answer well. Why do kids die with the flu in this age of readily available flu vaccines?

Oh, I’m sure that everyone has heard dozens of reasons, from the idea that flu vaccines don’t work to parents just aren’t vaccinating their kids, but in reality, there is no good answer that fits all situations, except to know that the flu is deadly.

Why Do Kids Die With the Flu?

The biggest misconception that most people have about pediatric flu deaths is that all kids who die with the flu must have some underlying medical condition, like diabetes, asthma, immune system problems, or a heart condition.

That’s not true.

Around half of the kids who die with the flu have no underlying risk factors or medical conditions.

Around half of the kids who die with the flu have no underlying risk factors or medical conditions. They were otherwise healthy before they got sick with the flu.

But it is only younger kids that die with the flu, right?

Kids of all ages die with the flu, from infants and toddlers to teens.

Kids of all ages die with the flu, from infants and toddlers to teens.

And surprisingly, they often die quickly.

Most kids die within two or three days of getting their first flu symptoms.

Most kids die within two or three days of getting their first flu symptoms.

Many kids die with flu before they can even be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

That’s likely why many die before they can even be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

But they are all unvaccinated, right?

Tragically, no.

Among children who died from influenza during the 2010-11 flu season, few (23%) were vaccinated.
Among children who died from influenza during the 2010-11 flu season, few (23%) were vaccinated.

Although most are unvaccinated, some vaccinated kids do still die.

“This report summarizes the 115 cases of influenza-associated pediatric mortality reported to CDC that occurred from September 1, 2010, through August 31, 2011. Deaths occurred in 33 states. Nearly half of the deaths (46%) occurred in children aged <5 years. Of the children who died, 49% had no known Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)–defined* high-risk medical conditions, and 35% died at home or in the emergency department. Of the 74 children aged ≥6 months for whom vaccination data were available, 17 (23%) had been fully vaccinated.”

Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths — United States, September 2010–August 2011

Still, studies have shown that getting a flu vaccine can reduce a child’s risk of dying with the flu by half if they have an underlying high-risk medical condition and even more (65 percent) if they are otherwise healthy.

Ultimately, we need a better flu vaccine. Until we get it, the one we have is our best protection against the flu.

Flu vaccines are a safe way to reduce your risk of dying with the flu.
Flu vaccines are a safe way to reduce your risk of dying with the flu.

And since they are safe, there is no good reason to not get vaccinated and protected each year.

More on Pediatric Flu Deaths

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1 thought on “Why Do Kids Die With the Flu?”

  1. First; I’m glad to see that you are actually talking about flu specific deaths, and not P&I. So, good job on that. Second; Isn’t it 29.8% (30%) that died were vaccinated (17 fully vaccinated, 57 not vaccinated)? Thirdly; what does the **** mean next to fully vax and not vax on the 5th image? Does not vaccinated mean not vaccinated AT ALL, or just not the influenza vaccine, or just one dose of flu vaccine? OR what?

    Thank you for not posting the usual: “80,000 died from the flu last season” that we normally get told about.

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