NHS Western Isles are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against influenza.

All children aged 2-5 are eligible for the free influenza vaccination, as well as children over six months of age with a medical condition which puts them in an ‘at risk’ group such as diabetes, heart or kidney disease, and breathing problems.

The vaccine takes 10 days to work, so the earlier your child can get the vaccine, the better. The vaccine needs to be given annually to offer protection against the most common types of flu virus that are around each winter. Over the last few years, the nasal spray flu vaccine has worked very well at protecting young children against flu. It has also reduced the chance of them spreading flu into the wider community.

The vaccine is given to children as a nasal spray. A tiny amount of the flu vaccine is given into each nostril. It’s not an injection. It’s quick and painless and there’s no need to sniff or inhale the vaccine. Your child will just feel a little tickle in their nose.

Flu is not just a common cold and in some cases flu can lead to complications. These can include:
• bronchitis
• pneumonia
• painful middle-ear infection
• vomiting
• diarrhoea.

Flu can be even more serious for children with health conditions (for example asthma, heart, kidney, liver, neurological disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or a spleen that doesn’t work fully), and can make their condition worse.

In the worst cases, flu can lead to disability and even death.

The flu vaccine helps protect your child against flu and reduces the chance of your child spreading the virus to friends and other members of your family who are at greater risk from flu, such as grandparents or people with health conditions.

One Western Isles mum, whose two pre-school children have already been vaccinated this year, commented: “Children bring home all sorts of bugs from nursery or just playing with friends.

"The flu vaccination takes seconds, it’s a nasal spray, that doesn’t even cause discomfort.

"Now I know my children are protected from influenza, an infection that could really harm them.

"It’s a ‘no brainer’ for me in terms of protecting my children.”

To make an appointment, contact your GP practice.