It’s not because their immune systems are still developing.
Are our children dying from the flu for reasons more complicated than we have known in the past? Every year, 50 percent of the children who die from the flu were previously healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. So what makes healthy kids vulnerable to dying from the virus? A new study offers a surprising explanation.
When researchers from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago studied the initial immune response to first-time flu exposure in healthy mice, they found that young mice had an exaggerated immune response, even after the virus was cleared from the body, Science Daily reports.
The study’s lead author, Bria Coates, MD, a critical care physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, wrote, “The flu was a trigger to the inflammation that their system couldn’t turn off, which proved fatal.”
The specific cause of the inflammation were immune cells called monocytes (a large white blood cell), which drifted to the lungs—even causing lung injury—during young mice’s initial immune response.
The findings, which are published in the Journal of Immunology, go against the long-held assumption that kids are more prone to dying of the flu because their immune systems are still developing and aren’t strong enough to fight off the virus.
Researchers hope the discovery can help scientists craft more effective medicines to treat the flu in our children. “We can seek ways to prevent monocytes from coming to the lungs, or we can target monocyte behavior in the lungs to reduce dangerous inflammation,” Dr. Coates wrote. She also said that the vaccine can still be useful. “Even when the vaccine is not a perfect match to the circulating influenza strain, as is the case this year, the vaccine still helps prevent more severe infections if children get sick with the flu.”
Last week, the CDC said that the vaccine is only 25 percent effective against the worst strain of the flu right now, H3N2.
Already, 84 children have died due to the flu during the 2017 to 2018 flu season, according to the CDC.
Steps to help prevent children dying from the flu.
A healthy immune system is important for all of us. Children are not the only ones dying from the flu. The best way to fight a cold or flu is to prevent it. The stronger your immune system the better chances of doing just that.
A healthy diet, sleep and exercise routines are a great start. It is not always easy to decide how to strengthen your immune system but some solid research and careful planning make it possible.
Fighting off the germs plays a vital role as well. Wash your hands for twenty seconds throughout the day. Most common times are when you have been exposed to a germ filled environment, after using the restroom and before eating.
Singing the Happy Birthday song twice, in your head or while entertaining others, will help you reach that all important twenty seconds. Spotify even has a playlist for hand washing songs!
When in doubt call your doctor or pediatrician. It is always best to contact the professionals when symptoms become more severe. It is also important that one single symptom can indicate many issues. If it is not obvious, then consult a physician that can put your mind at ease while ensuring the best care for you and your loved ones. Dying from the flu can often be prevented with the proper precautions and prevention.
Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Working Mother