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Flu Vaccination for Children

A flu vaccination 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 health care provider's office, health clinic, or drug store. If you have questions, talk to your child’s health care provider.

Woman sitting on exam table with baby on lap. Healthcare provider preparing to give baby injection.

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 vaccinations are safe for most children. If you have questions or concerns, talk to 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 Vaccination

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all children 6 months and older should 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 conditions

You and your child's health care provider should discuss whether or not your child should receive 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 medication in the past 48 hours

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 8/28/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.