An Ohio mom is urging other families to have their children vaccinated against the flu after her 4-year-old son died from the disease.
Anywhere from dozens to hundreds of children die from flu-related complications every year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
“That number doesn’t seem like a lot until it’s your child,” Laura Sidari told InsideEdition.com.
Her son Leon, 4, was one of 183 kids who lost their lives to influenza in the 2017 to 2018 season.
“I’ve never seen a healthy kid decompensate like that,” Sidari said, recalling his death. “Certainly not so quickly.”
She explained Leon was like any other 4-year-old boy. He loved to run around, play soccer, watch movies with his mom and take care of his younger brothers, Tristan, now 2, and Cameron, now 11 months. Leon also rarely got sick.
Leon had been feeling fine the last day before winter break at his day care, but started developing flu-like symptoms the following day.
“He complained of some muscle aches and had a fever," Sidari recalled “We gave him some chicken noodle soup and Pedialyte. He was watching cartoons on the couch, normal looking sickness, nothing out of the ordinary."
Sidari and her husband, who are both doctors, said they planned all season to get their family vaccinated against the flu, but put it off as they juggled life with three kids and the upcoming Christmas season. In fact, they had an appointment at the doctor’s just days later for a flu shot.
“Every season, my kids have been vaccinated, but it just slipped through the cracks,” she explained. “All my kids have been vaccinated and I’m a big proponent of vaccination due to my medical training, but I was not aware of the severe risk that influenza can pose to healthy people and healthy children.”
The next morning, on Christmas Eve, it became clear Leon’s health was deteriorating.
His mom explained he started having trouble breathing, so they rushed him to the emergency room. There, doctors diagnosed him with influenza and bacterial pneumonia.
Hours later, early Christmas morning, Leon was dead.
“We didn’t see it coming,” Sidari said. “When we went to the hospital, we expected he would be coming home. He still had his pajamas right by his bedside.”
She and her family are now encouraging others to prioritize getting a flu shot before it’s too late.
Receiving the flu vaccination will not just lower chances of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent — it can also reduce the risk of hospitalization from flu-related illnesses by up to 82 percent, according to the CDC.
"I would give anything as a mother for that [chance]," Sidari said. “You can’t wait for medical care — you have to prevent it.”