SPECIAL REPORT: How to keep your children safe from the flu virus

Published: Mar. 28, 2018 at 1:52 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2018 at 11:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The flu vaccine is touted as the best defense against the flu.

But this year, flu season is stacking up as one of the deadliest yet, especially for children.

So far, there are 133 deaths among children in the U.S. since the season started last October.

Three-and-a-half-month-old Ansleigh Heavlow of Marion County got a clean bill of health from her doctor. Not long ago, she had the flu.

Her mother, Tiffany Heavlow of Marion County, Georgia says, "It was rough. I guess the scary part is hearing all these stories about how the flu has been deadly and then have everyone catch the flu."

Ansleigh wasn't the only one in the Heavlow household with the flu. Two of her older brothers, 6-year-old Luke and 10-year-old Micha, also caught the bug. 
Unlike their sister who was too young for the vaccine, both Luke and Micha got a flu shot this season.

"I think it's because the vaccine this year is not quite as effective as in previous years. It's hard to tell. We don't know which strain is going to be more prevalent," that's according to Dr. Richelle Gonzalez of Columbus Regional Pediatrics. She says even though the vaccine hasn't been as effective, it's still protective.

"The ones who have gotten the flu and received the vaccine have had a milder case of the flu."

That was the case with Heavlow's kids.

"It doesn't last as long and it's not as bad as if you don't get that flu shot."

The Centers for Disease Control says three-quarters of the children who've died of flu complications this year did not receive a vaccination.

Flu season typically starts in October, peaks in early February, and ends in mid-April. Last year, 110 children in the U.S. died of the flu. It's up this season to 133. Four of those deaths were reported in Georgia and two in Alabama. The season isn't over yet.

Dr. Gonzalez says, "a lot of children have been dying from flu-related complications so that secondary or new infection. If you think your child is getting worse, they may have developed something else."

Dr. Gonzalez says the best way for parents to protect their children is to get them vaccinated every year.

Recognizing flu warning signs is critical too. That would be trouble breathing or breathing fast, fever, a dry cough,  a sore throat, and body aches. 
Younger kids can experience diarrhea and vomiting. Constant monitoring could save your child's life, says Dr. Gonzalez.

"If you feel like your child is not getting better or there are new symptoms that develop, please don't hesitate to bring them in to be seen by their pediatrician."

Heavlow says she's grateful her children recovered from the flu and are doing great.  Although the vaccine didn't keep from the getting the flu---

"It won't stop us from getting it next year. We'll all continue to get the flu shot."

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