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.