The flu vaccine is, indeed, a good idea for families. The flu shot does not cause the flu and it keeps kids and parents from getting sick. Getting the flu is worse than having a cold and can make a person sick for a week or more.
Infants younger than 6 months can't get the vaccine, but if the parents and older kids in the household get it, that will help protect the baby. This is important because infants are more at risk for serious complications from the flu.
Who Should Be Immunized?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older (instead of just certain groups, as was recommended before). But it's especially important that those in higher-risk groups get vaccinated. They include:
- all kids 6 months through 4 years old
- anyone 65 years and older
- women who will be pregnant during flu season
- anyone whose weakened immune system is weakened from medications or illnesses (like HIV infection)
- residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
- any adult or child with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma
- kids or teens who take aspirin regularly and are at risk for developing Reye syndrome if they get the flu
- health care personnel who have direct contact with patients
- caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group (like children younger than 6 months)
- Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
Certain circumstances would prevent a person from getting the vaccine. If your child falls into any of the groups below, talk to your doctor to see if the vaccine is still recommended:
- infants under 6 months old
- anyone who's ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
- anyone with Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves)
In the past, it was recommended that anyone with an egg allergy talk to a doctor about whether receiving the flu vaccine was safe because it is grown inside eggs. But health experts now say that the amount of egg allergen in the vaccine is so tiny that it (but not the nasal mist) is safe even for kids with a severe egg allergy. This is especially important during a severe flu season, such as the current one, which started earlier and has been much worse than in years past.
Still, if your child has an egg allergy, he or she should get the flu shot in a doctor's office, not at a supermarket, drugstore, or other venue. And if the allergy is severe, it might need to be given in an allergist's office.
If your child is sick and has a fever, talk to your doctor about rescheduling the flu shot.
When Should Kids Get Vaccinated?
Flu season runs from October to May. It's best to get a flu shot early in the season, as it gives the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the flu. But getting a shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.
Those who don't like shots might be able to get the vaccine in a nasal spray. Your doctor can tell you if this is an option for you or your kids.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph
Date reviewed: January 2013
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. Call: (800) CDC-INFO|
|Influenza Website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.|
|Is It a Cold or the Flu? Your child is sent home from school with a sore throat, cough, and high fever - could it be the flu that's been going around? Or is it just a common cold? Find out here!|
|Frequently Asked Questions About Immunizations Immunizations have protected millions of children from potentially deadly diseases. Learn about immunizations and find out exactly what they do - and what they don't.|
|Tips for Treating the Flu Here are some quick tips for helping your child get over the flu.|
|Too Late for a Flu Shot? The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Even though it's ideal to get vaccinated early, the flu shot can still be helpful later.|
|Influenza (Flu) Flu symptoms tend to develop quickly and are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Yearly vaccination is the best protection against the flu.|
|Flu Center Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.|
|Immunization Schedule Which vaccines does your child need to receive and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.|
|How Many Doses of Flu Vaccine Does My Child Need? Knowing the doctor-recommended flu vaccination schedule can be confusing. Use this tool to help you understand how many doses your child needs.|
|Your Child's Immunizations Immunizations protect your child from potentially fatal diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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