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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.

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 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 types (strains) 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, "killed" (inactivated) 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 vaccine

The nasal spray is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. The CDC says this is because the nasal spray did not seem to protect against the flu over the last several flu seasons. In the past, it was meant for children ages 2 and older.

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

  • Those who have had severe allergic reactions to previous flu vaccines

  • Those who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is a serious paralyzing condition.

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 8/28/2014
© 2000-2016 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.