The flu vaccine is a good idea for all families. It does not cause the flu and it helps keep kids and parents from getting sick. Getting the flu is worse than having a cold and can make a person sick for a week or more.
Babies younger than 6 months old can't get the vaccine, but if their parents, other caregivers, 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
But it's especially important for those who are at greater risk of developing health problems from the flu, including:
Certain things might prevent a person from getting the vaccine. Talk to your doctor to see if the vaccine is still recommended if your child:
Different types of vaccines are available. One type (called trivalent) protects against three strains of the flu virus (usually, two types of influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus). Another type (called quadrivalent) protects against four strains.
The vaccine can be given to kids in two different ways: by injection with a needle (the flu shot), or sprayed into the nostrils (nasal spray or nasal mist).
Both ways of delivering the vaccine are effective, but recent studies show that the nasal spray may work better in younger children. So experts recommend that healthy kids 2 to 8 years old get the nasal spray vaccine when available. If it's not available, the flu shot should be given (kids should not wait for the nasal spray to get vaccinated). The nasal spray isn't recommended for kids with certain medical conditions or pregnant women.
Some vaccines are approved only for adults at this time, such as egg-free vaccines and intradermal shots, which are injected into the skin (instead of muscle) with a smaller needle.
Vaccine shortages and delays sometimes happen, so check with your doctor about availability and to see which vaccine is right for your kids.
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.
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.
Flu season runs from October to May. It's best to get a flu shot as early in the season as possible, as it gives the body a chance to build up immunity to (protection from) the flu. But getting a shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014
|Immunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.|
|CDC: Flu (Influenza) The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.|
|The 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.|
|Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations Immunizations have protected millions of children from potentially deadly diseases. Learn about immunizations and find out exactly what they do - and what they don't.|
|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.|
|Is It a Cold or the Flu? Your child is sent home from school with a sore throat, cough, and high fever - could it be the flu that's been going around? Or is it just a common cold? Find out here!|
|Flu Center Get the basics on how flu spreads and how to protect yourself.|
|Flu Center Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Who Needs a Flu Shot? Just about everybody needs a flu shot. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|5 Ways to Fight the Flu Get tips for fending off the flu in this article for teens.|
|The Flu: Stop the Spread Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu.|
|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.|
|Tips for Treating the Flu Here are some quick tips for helping your child get over the flu.|
|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.|
|Immunization Schedule Which vaccines does your child need to receive and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.|
|Your Child's Immunizations Immunizations protect your child from potentially fatal diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy.|
|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.|
|Too Late for the Flu Vaccine? The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Even though it's best to get it then, being vaccinated later can still help protect against the flu.|
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