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Influenza and Children

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There may not be a COVID-19 vaccine this fall, but there will be a flu vaccine. Plan on getting your flu shot early to protect yourself against this serious respiratory illness.

Information for parents

The flu is not just a bad cold. Children who get the flu often need medical care, especially if they're younger than 5.

  • Each year about 20,000 children younger than 5 become so sick from the flu they need hospital care.
  • Every year children die from the flu.
  • Severe flu complications are most common in children younger than 2.
  • Children with chronic health problems like asthma or diabetes are at high risk for serious flu complications.
  • Children catch the flu at higher rates than any other age group.

Higher risk

Some children are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications.

1. Children younger than 6 months old.

The flu vaccine is not approved for babies younger than six months old. The best way to protect them is to make sure everyone in the household gets the flu vaccine.

2. Children younger than 5.

Children six months to five years are more likely to go to a doctor or the emergency room because of the flu. To protect their health, all children six months and older should get the flu vaccine each year.

3. Children older than 6 months with chronic health problems like:

  • Asthma or other lung problems.
  • Immune system problems.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Heart disease.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Diabetes.
  • Sickle cell anemia.
  • Long-term aspirin therapy.
  • Spinal cord problems.
  • Seizure disorders.
  • Other brain problems.

4. American Indian and Alaska Native children.

These children are more at risk for flu complications. We don’t know why.

Influenza vaccination recommendations

The best way to protect children from the flu is to get the influenza vaccine each year.

Check the children’s immunization calendar on our website to find free immunization sites in the community.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone older than 6 months of age get the flu vaccine. To learn more about this year's flu vaccine, visit the CDC's flu page.

Many studies show immune systems of children respond very well to flu vaccine.

When we vaccinate children for the flu, we can help protect everyone in the community.

Most children who are allergic to eggs can still safely get a flu vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider or call us at (253) 798-6410.

Nasal spray flu vaccine

The nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) is available this season and is included in the current CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations.

People who have contact with children also need the flu vaccine.

  • People who live with children younger than 5.
  • Childcare providers, teachers and nannies of children younger than 5.
  • People who have contact with children of any age who have a chronic health problem.
  • Healthcare workers.

When to get vaccinated

Children need a flu shot every year. Children can get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. It's best to get the vaccine before flu starts spreading. It's not too late to get a flu shot later in the season.

Flu vaccine safety

The flu shot has an excellent safety record. Over the years, millions of Americans have received the flu vaccine.

Most common side effects are mild, like soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of the shot. Serious allergic reactions can occur, but are very rare. Vaccine safety is continually monitored. Visit the CDC Vaccine Safety page for more information.

What if my child has never had the flu vaccine?

Children younger than 9 who haven’t received 2 doses of flu vaccine in their lifetime will need 2 doses this season. If possible, they should get the first dose as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

Medications to treat flu in children

Medications are available to treat children 2 weeks and older who get the flu and are recommended for high-risk children and those hospitalized with the flu. If possible, start treatment within 2 days after becoming sick.

Worrisome symptoms

If your child develops a fever or respiratory symptoms during flu season, contact their doctor right away. Don't give aspirin to children with flu-like symptoms.