U.K. officials have urged parents to vaccinated their children against flu as cases rise faster in kids than in any other age group.
Children aged 5 to 14 have seen the biggest growth in cases over the last week, as the season gets started early. Cases in the under fives are also rising fast, with hospitalisations almost doubling in England over the last two weeks.
Experts from the UK Health Security Agency, which monitors the circulation of viruses like flu, as well as the uptake of shots, says it’s important parents get their kids vaccinated as cases rise.
Vaccine uptake is lagging behind previous years in kids aged two and three, at 16% and 17.1% respectively. Uptake in older adults, however, is currently comparable with previous years.
Consultant epidemiologist Dr Connal Watson said: “Hospital admission rates for flu have increased in recent weeks and remain highest in those under five.
“Already this year a small number of young children have needed intensive care. Please book your pre-schooler in for flu vaccine at your GP surgery as soon as you can.”
Younger kids in the U.K. are eligible for a nasal spray flu vaccine, which will be rolled out to some older children later this fall.
A third illness — respiratory syncytial virus — is also increasing in the country. The common winter virus, which affects young kids, is usually mild. But it can sometimes lead to severe illness, particularly in babies and those with heart or lung conditions.
Watson said parents should contact their family doctor if they notice any unusual breathing or feeding difficulties. “If your child seems seriously unwell, trust your judgement and get emergency care,” he added.
The UKHSA says parents can keep their kids safe this winter by teaching them how to properly wash their hands and minimise the spread of germs when they cough and sneeze.
Recognising the symptoms of illnesses like flu and RSV — and keeping sick kids at home — will help prevent the spread of disease and help parents know when a child might need medical help.