Vaccine for Flu (Influenza)

Flu

How to pronounce Influenza: [in-floo-en-zuh]

A yearly flu vaccine is the best way to protect your child from flu and its potentially serious complications.

Why should my child get a flu vaccine?

  • Reduces the risk of flu illness and hospitalization among children.
  • Shown to be life-saving for children.
  • Can make illness less severe among people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu.
  • Reduces the risk of illness, which can keep your child from missing school or childcare and you from having to miss work.
  • Reduces the high risk of developing serious flu complication especially if your child is younger than 5 years, or of any age with certain chronic conditions.
  • Helps prevent spreading flu to family and friends, including babies younger than 6 months who are too young to get a flu vaccine.

When should my child get a flu vaccine?

Doctors recommend that your child get a flu vaccine every year in the fall, starting when he or she is 6 months old. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age may need 2 doses for best protection.

  • CDC recommends a flu vaccine by the end of October, before flu begins spreading in your community. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
  • Children 6 months through 8 years getting a flu vaccine for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of flu vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available.
  • If your child previously got two doses of flu vaccine (at any time), he only needs one dose of flu vaccine this season.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone ages six months and older. Pregnant women should get a flu vaccine during each pregnancy. Flu vaccines given during pregnancy help protect both the mother and her baby from flu.

What vaccines protect against flu?

For the 2019-2020 flu season, CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.

  • Flu shots can be given to your child 6 months and older.
  • The nasal spray vaccine can be given to people 2 through 49 years of age. However, certain people with underlying medical conditions should not get the nasal spray vaccine.

Your child’s doctor will know which vaccines are right for your child.

Should I get vaccinated if I’m pregnant?

Yes. Changes in your immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from flu. CDC recommends pregnant women get a yearly seasonal flu shot by the end of October, if possible, to ensure best protection against flu. You can be vaccinated during any trimester of your pregnancy. Getting vaccinated can also help protect your baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)

Flu vaccines are very safe.

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Flu vaccines have a good safety record. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines for more than 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. When they occur, flu vaccine side effects are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days.

What are the side effects?

Common side effects from the flu shot may include:

  • Soreness, redness, and/or swelling where shot was given
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches

Side effects from the nasal spray flu vaccine may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches

If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived.

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To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, adolescents should be seated or lying down during vaccination and remain in that position for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.

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Prepare for your child's vaccine visit and learn about how you can:

  • Research vaccines and ready your child before the visit
  • Comfort your child during the appointment
  • Care for your child after the shot
Before, During, and After Shots

Why does my child need a flu vaccine every year?

Flu viruses are constantly changing, so new vaccines are made each year to protect against the flu viruses that are likely to cause the most illness. Also, protection provided by flu vaccination wears off over time. Your child’s flu vaccine will protect against flu all season, but they will need a vaccine again next flu season for best protection against flu.

What is flu?

Flu—short for influenza—is an illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses infect the nose, upper airways, throat, and lungs. Flu spreads easily and can cause serious illness, especially for young children, older people, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu symptoms can include:

  • Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever) or feeling feverish/chills
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (this is more common in children than adults)

Most people who get sick with flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks.

Is flu illness serious?

Millions of children get sick with flu each year and thousands are hospitalized. CDC estimates that since 2010, between 7,000 and 28,000 children younger than 5 years old have been hospitalized for flu each year in the United States. Children with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and disorders of the brain or nervous system, and children younger than 5 years old (and especially children younger than 2 years old) are more likely to end up in the hospital from flu.

Some people at high risk can develop complications (such as pneumonia) that can result in hospitalization and even death.

Flu seasons vary in how serious they are from one season to another. Since 2010, CDC estimates that between 130 and 1,200 children (younger than 18 years) have died from flu each year.

How does flu spread?

Flu spreads mainly by droplets when people who have flu talk, cough, or sneeze, and these droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or are inhaled. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

People can spread flu to others from one day before they have symptoms to 5-7 days after they get sick. This can be longer in children and people who are very sick.

Can my child get flu from a flu vaccine?

No, flu vaccines do not cause flu. Flu vaccines (given as a shot) are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with

  1. flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) and are therefore not infectious, or
  2. using only a single gene from a flu virus (as opposed to the full virus) in order to produce an immune response without causing infection.

Flu vaccine protects your child from flu illness. However, flu shots can sometimes cause mild side effects that may be mistaken for flu. Keep in mind that it will take about 2 weeks after getting a vaccine for your child to build protection against flu.

Follow the vaccine schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended vaccine schedule.

Page last reviewed: August 2, 2019