Yearly flu vaccines best protection for children

September 7, 2011

Annual flu vaccines are the best way to protect children from life-threatening pneumonia, according to new guidelines from the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Infectious Disease Society of America.

Annual flu vaccines are the best way to protect children from life-threatening pneumonia, according to new guidelines from the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).

Although there are guidelines for diagnosing and treating pneumonia in adults, the course of bacterial pneumonia tends to be different for children. As a result, practices vary from doctor to doctor and from hospital to hospital, according to PIDS and IDSA, which recently released guidelines for comprehensive community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). “With these guidelines, we are hopeful that the standard and quality of care children receive for community-acquired pneumonia will be consistent from doctor to doctor, providing much better treatment outcomes,” said John Bradley, MD, lead author of the CAP guidelines and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego Department of Pediatrics.

According to the guidelines, because viral infections such as influenza can develop into bacterial pneumonia, children 6 months and older should receive a yearly influenza vaccine. “It is also important that infants and children are up to date on their other scheduled vaccines, several of which prevent bacterial pneumonia,” said a statement from IDSA.

At the same time, overtreatment of viral infections is a critical concern. Most pneumonia in preschool-aged children is viral and will run its course, and not develop into bacterial pneumonia. “In these cases, there is no need to perform unnecessary medical interventions such as x-rays … or prescribing antibiotics,” said the IDSA statement.

When antibiotics are necessary, amoxicillin should be first-line therapy for bacterial pneumonia because it is safe and effective, the guidelines stated. “Many doctors prescribe more powerful antibiotics, which are unnecessary and can kill off good bacteria in the body,” the statement said.

To view the guidelines, visit cid.oxfordjournals.org.