In addition to the standard set of vaccines required for school entry, parents should consider vaccinating their children against influenza, or the flu. The influenza virus circulates through the United States every year, with serious consequences. Depending on where you live, the flu rears its ugly head somewhere between late fall and late spring.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, body aches, headaches, and nasal distress that can last for days. The flu typically has a very sudden onset, meaning that your child feels well at one moment and then rapidly falls ill over the course of a few hours, often spiking a fever. For young children and elderly adults, the flu can be particularly dangerous, and each year thousands are hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms.
Vaccination with a flu shot is recommended for all children aged six months and older. If this is your child’s first season getting a flu shot, the child will receive two doses separated by at least four weeks. If the child received two doses in the past, they will likely need only one dose this year. Your child’s doctor will have recorded if and when doses were given. In addition, all adults who care for and come into contact with children should receive the vaccine. Some pediatricians will offer the vaccine to the parents and caregivers of their patients, so it is a good idea to ask when you call for your child’s appointment.
There are several formulations of the traditional flu shot. It’s best to check with your child’s doctor to know which one is being given. In the past, the flu shot was given cautiously or not at all to people with an egg allergy. Currently, however, there are two new vaccines that have been manufactured without egg products for people who cannot tolerate the older vaccine.
A nasal mist formulation called Flumist is also available to healthy children aged 2 years and older. Your pediatrician will help you determine which formula is right for your child.
Like all vaccines, your child’s physician will provide you with the vaccine information sheet (VIS) that describes the shot and outlines typical side effects. It is important to read this document prior to receiving the vaccination.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, September 2020
- The best time to have your child vaccinated against the flu is early fall.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends flu vaccine for all children aged six months and older as well as for all adult contacts of infants and children.
- In the first season your child is vaccinated, they will receive two doses of the vaccine separated by at least four weeks.
Decisions are hard
I hate to admit I’m one of “those” people because of all the controversy involved with this topic, but I’m very inquisitive about vaccines and the flu vaccine in particular. I read this article but it always seems there is conflicting information out there!! How do us new parents make a judgement call?
I always like to know what people are reading in order to understand their fears and concerns. Your article sure was frightening and I can often sympathize with families being nervous. There is so much misinformation out there. For example, the article discusses mercury but there is no mercury in the flu shots we give in our office. Ask your doctor to know for sure that there is none in yours. The bottom line is that the flu can be deadly and vaccinating yourself protects not only you but those most vulnerable around you. Hundreds of children die each year from the flu and many of those children were perfectly healthy prior to catching the flu. So you really have to weigh the risk of side effects verses benefit of getting the vaccine. Your doctor can help you decide what is right for your family.
My 15-month-old son just received his flu shot yesterday along with his regular vaccinations for that age. I requested that my doctor verify that their flu shot did not contain mercury. She was pretty sure, but she did a double check for me. I would think that most flu shots in pediatric facilities would NOT contain mercury, but it’s always a good idea to do your own research and ask about anything that will ease your mind!
I already got my two boys vaccinated this year. I’m so glad neither had any side effects from it! For those that are deciding between the mist or the shot, I’d go with the shot. I’ve heard the mist is pretty traumatizing for the little ones. They don’t really know what to expect and I think it freaks them out. I know we all hate giving our babies shots, but it’s over fast while the mist can linger and be uncomfortable for them for awhile.
Great to hear! I asked for the mist for my daughter and they didn’t have it, so we got the shot. Guess I’m glad I didn’t go the mist route.
My daughter has had the mist a couple of times and the shot a couple of times – and had no reaction (side effects) or negative feelings toward either. We actually like the mist better as it’s one fewer needle – and if you just tell them that something is going up their noses they seem fine with it… if you think about it – they have so many new experiences every day – this is just another one. AND best of all then they’re protected so when everyone starts coughing and sneezing around them you can at least breathe easy that they are safe from the flu. That is just my two cents that the flu mist is great and easy!