Doctor applying a bandage to a child's arm after getting their flu vaccine.


Yes, your kids should get a flu vaccine

Flu season is almost here. Children are among the most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from flu-related complications. The best way to guard your kids against the flu is to get a vaccine (shot) every year. Keep reading to learn why kids should get vaccinated and the potential health risks if they don’t.

Why kids should get the flu shot

Getting the flu vaccination early can help your family stay one step ahead of the virus. Other benefits include:

  • Protect your kids’ health. The most effective way to protect your kids is to get their flu shot every year. A new vaccine is needed yearly because the influenza virus changes as it moves around the world.
  • Reduce the risk of serious complications. Children younger than 5, and especially under 2 years old, are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, according to the CDC. The CDC reported 199 flu-related deaths in children during the 2019-2020 flu season. However, the agency estimates the number may be closer to 434. The 2019-2020 flu vaccination prevented about 3.7 million doctor’s visits and 6,300 flu-related deaths.
  • Save money. Unexpected health care costs can quickly add up and make your busy lifestyle even more hectic. Preventing the flu can save you money on doctor’s visits and medications.
  • Save time with fewer doctor’s visits. The flu shot can prevent flu-related medical visits, giving you more quality family time. 

Schedule a flu shot at a clinic near you.

Types of flu vaccines for children

There are two types of flu vaccines for children – the injectable flu shot and nasal spray. The injectable shot gives the vaccine through a needle and the nasal mist delivers the vaccine into the nose.

Can the vaccines cause the flu?

If you’re concerned your kids could get the flu from a vaccine, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, the vaccines don’t cause the flu.

The viruses used in the shot are killed (inactivated), meaning there is no whole virus in the vaccine. The nasal spray vaccine does contain live flu strains, but they are too weak to cause the flu.

Learn more about childhood vaccination myths debunked.

When children should get a flu vaccine 

Children should get their flu shot as soon as it’s available and before influenza begins to spread in your community. Flu season typically starts in October, peaks December to February, and ends in May.

When kids shouldn't get the flu shot

Most children can get a flu shot. The CDC says there are a few exceptions, including:

  • Children younger than 6 months old
  • People with a severe allergy to ingredients in a flu vaccine (other than egg proteins).  
  • People with a previous severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine
  • People with egg allergies, which are common in children. Kids 4 years and older with egg allergies can get the egg-free U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed Flucelvax Quadrivalent vaccine. Learn more about CDC’s special considerations regarding egg allergies and the flu vaccine.

When kids shouldn’t get the nasal spray vaccine

People who should not get the nasal spray vaccine include children:

  • younger than 2 years old
  • with a severe allergy to ingredients in the nasal spray vaccine
  • 2 to 17 years old using medications with salicylate such as Aspirin
  • with a weakened immune system
  • 2 to 4 years old with asthma or a recent history of wheezing
  • who are in close contact with someone who is severely immunocompromised (weakened immune system)

Tell your health care provider if your child has one of the below health conditions and he or she can find the best flu vaccine for your kid’s medical situation.

  • is 5 years and older and has asthma
  • has a chronic lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, a blood disorder, a neurologic or neuromuscular condition or diabetes

Side effects of the flu shot in kids

Side effects are often mild and short-term. Side effects may include:

  • soreness, redness, swelling or pain at the site of the vaccination
  • fatigue
  • ·nausea
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • The nasal vaccine may cause nasal congestion or a sore throat.

Protection begins about two weeks after a flu vaccine. The CDC and FDA closely monitor the safety of seasonal flu vaccines.

Stay on schedule and maximize flu protection

Some children 6 months to 8 years old who have never received a flu vaccine or previously received one dose may need two doses. Get their first flu vaccine as soon as it’s available.

If your child needs a second dose, their second dose is given at least four weeks later to ensure he or she has maximum protection from the flu. Your child’s health care provider can determine if he or she needs two doses. 

Can you get the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time?

Getting the flu shot now is critical as COVID-19 continues to threaten public health. Kids 12 and older can now get the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same appointment, according to the CDC.


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