Your Child's Immunizations: Influenza Vaccine

Your Child's Immunizations: Influenza Vaccine

Lea este articulo en Espanol

Influenza — what most of us call "the flu" — is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract.

Immunization Schedule

Flu season runs from October to May. It's best to get a flu shot early in the season, as it gives the body a chance to build up immunity to (protection from) the flu. But getting a flu shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older (instead of just certain groups, as was recommended before). But it's especially important that those in higher-risk groups get vaccinated. They include:

Infants younger than 6 months can't get the vaccine, but if the parents and older kids in the household get it, that will help protect the baby. This is important because infants are more at risk for serious complications from the flu.

Talk to your doctor about how many doses your child needs.

A non-shot option, the nasal mist vaccine, is approved for use in healthy 2- to 49-year-olds. It contains live but weakened virus that will not cause the flu. However, the vaccine isn't recommended for kids with certain medical conditions or pregnant women.

In the past, there have been vaccine shortages and delays. So talk with your doctor about availability, and about which vaccine is right for your kids.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

While the flu vaccine isn't 100% effective, it still greatly reduces a person's chances of catching the flu, which can be very serious, and can make symptoms less severe if someone does still get the flu after immunization.

Even if you or your kids got the seasonal flu vaccine last year, that won't protect you from getting the flu this year, because flu viruses constantly change. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.

Possible Risks

Usually given as an injection in the upper arm, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause someone to get the flu, but can cause mild side effects like soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. A low-grade fever and aches are also possible.

The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened live flu viruses, so it may cause mild flu-like symptoms, including runny nose, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever. Very rarely, the flu vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

Certain circumstances might prevent a person from getting the flu shot. Talk to your doctor to see if a flu shot is recommended if your child falls into any of these groups:

In the past, it was recommended that anyone with an egg allergy talk to a doctor about whether receiving the flu vaccine was safe because it is grown inside eggs. But health experts now say that the amount of egg allergen in the vaccine is so tiny that it (but not the nasal mist) is safe even for kids with a severe egg allergy. This is especially important during a severe flu season, such as the current one, which started earlier and has been much worse than in years past.

Still, a child with an egg allergy should get the flu shot in a doctor's office, not at a supermarket, drugstore, or other venue. And if the allergy is severe, it might need to be given in an allergist's office.

If your child is sick and has a fever, talk to your doctor about rescheduling the flu shot.

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

Pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication and to find out the appropriate dose.

A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad at the injection site also may help minimize soreness. Moving or using the limb that has received the injection often reduces the soreness as well.

When to Call the Doctor

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
Web SiteNational Immunization Program This website has information about immunizations. Call: (800) 232-2522
OrganizationImmunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.
Web SiteCDC: Pre-teen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, pre-teens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.
Web SiteCDC: Flu (Influenza) The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.
Web SiteThe History of Vaccines The History of Vaccines is an informational, educational website created by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest professional society in the United States.
Related Articles
What to Do if You Get the Flu If you have the flu, you'll want to do all you can to feel better. Find out more in this article for kids.
Your Child's Immunizations Immunizations protect your child from potentially fatal diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy.
Word! Influenza Feeling suddenly feverish, achy, and crummy all over?
Quiz: Do You Need a Flu Shot? The flu can be a lot worse than a typical cold. Find out if you should get the vaccine this year.
Flu Center The flu can make you sick for a week or more. Find out how to get protected from the influenza virus.
How Many Doses of Flu Vaccine Does My Child Need? Knowing the doctor-recommended flu vaccination schedule can be confusing. Use this tool to help you understand how many doses your child needs.
Flu Center Get the basics on how flu spreads and how to protect yourself.
Who Needs a Flu Shot? Just about everybody needs a flu shot. Find out more in this article for kids.
Flu Center Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.
What to Do if You Get the Flu You've probably heard warnings about flu season. If you do get the flu this year, read this article on how to feel better.
Influenza (Flu) Flu symptoms tend to develop quickly and are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Yearly vaccination is the best protection against the flu.
Is the Flu Vaccine a Good Idea for Your Family? The flu itself generally isn't dangerous, but its complications can be. That's why it's important for you and your doctor to determine whether your family can and should get the flu vaccine.
The Flu Vaccine Doctors recommend that all teens get vaccinated against the flu. The good news is, it doesn't have to be a shot. Here are the facts on flu vaccines.
The Flu: Stop the Spread Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu.
I'm Pregnant. Should I Get a Flu Shot? Find out what the experts have to say.
Flu The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.
5 Tips for Surviving Shots If you're afraid of shots, you're not alone. Next time your doc asks you to roll up your sleeve, try these tips.
5 Ways to Fight the Flu Get tips for fending off the flu in this article for teens.
Too Late for a Flu Shot? The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Even though it's ideal to get vaccinated early, the flu shot can still be helpful later.
A Kid's Guide to Shots If you're old enough to read this, you've probably had most of your shots. But even bigger kids may need a shot once in a while. Find out more about them in this article for kids.
Immunization Schedule Which vaccines does your child need to receive and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.
Immunizations Missing out on shots puts you at more serious risk than you might think. That one little "ouch" moment protects you from some major health problems.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter