Flu Vaccine for Children

Flu Vaccine for Children

A flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu (influenza) for your child and other family members. The vaccine is given in the form of a shot (injection) or a nasal spray. It's best to get vaccinated each year, as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. This can be at your healthcare provider's office, health clinic, or drugstore. If you have questions, talk with your child's healthcare provider.

Flu facts

  • The flu vaccine will not give your child the flu.
  • The flu is caused by a virus. It can't be treated with antibiotics.
  • The flu can be life threatening. Every year, about 36,000 people die of complications from the flu.
  • Influenza is not the same as "stomach flu," the 24-hour bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea. This is most likely due to a GI (gastrointestinal) infection-not the flu.
  • Flu vaccines are safe for most children. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child's doctor.

How a flu vaccine protects your child

There are many strains (types) of flu viruses. Medical experts predict which strains are most likely to make people sick each year. Flu vaccines are made from these strains. With the shot, inactivated ("killed") flu viruses are injected into your child's body. With the nasal spray, weakened viruses are sprayed into your child's nose. The vaccines prompt the body to make antibodies to fight these flu strains.

Some children may get mild symptoms after a flu vaccine, such as a runny nose, fever, or pain at the injection site.

Who should get the flu vaccine

The CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older get vaccinated, with some exceptions. And the CDC recommends:

  • A series of two vaccines for children 6 months to 8 years who are getting their first flu vaccines
  • The nasal spray vaccine for healthy children from 2 to 8 years old

These children may not be able to get a flu shot:

  • Those who have had severe allergic reactions to previous flu vaccinations
  • Those who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious paralyzing condition

You and your child's healthcare provider should discuss whether your child should get the flu vaccine.

The following children should not get the nasal spray vaccine. Instead they should get a flu shot. A child:

  • With a weakened immune system
  • With egg allergies
  • With asthma or wheezing problems
  • On long-term aspirin therapy
  • Who, within the next 7 days, will visit someone with a weakened immune system
  • Who has taken antiviral medicine in the past 48 hours