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Health Information For Parents
Influenza — what most of us call “the flu” — is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. It can make a person feel very sick.
Flu season runs from October to May. It’s best to get a flu vaccine as early in the season as possible, ideally by the end of October. This gives the body a chance to make antibodies that protect from the flu. But getting a flu vaccine later in the season is better than not getting it at all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
But it’s especially important that those in higher-risk groups get vaccinated to avoid health problems from the flu. They include:
Babies younger than 6 months can’t get the vaccine. But if their parents, other caregivers, 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 problems from the flu.
Talk to your doctor about how many doses your child needs.
Two types of flu vaccine are available for the 2019–2020 flu season. Both protect against four types of influenza virus:
In the past, the nasal spray vaccine wasn’t recommended for kids because it didn’t seem to work well enough. The newer version appears to work as well as the shot. So either vaccine can be given this year, depending on the child’s age and general health.
The nasal spray is only for healthy people ages 2–49. People with weak immune systems or some health conditions (such as asthma) and pregnant women should not get the nasal spray vaccine.
While the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective, it still greatly reduces a person’s chances of catching the flu, which can be very serious. It also can make symptoms less severe if someone does still get the flu after immunization.
Even if you or your kids got the flu vaccine last year, that won’t protect you this year, because flu viruses change. That’s why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current types of the virus.
Sometimes the same types are included in the vaccine one year after the next. Even then, it’s still important to get the yearly flu vaccine because the body’s immunity against the influenza virus declines over time.
Usually given as an injection in the upper arm, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause someone to get the flu. But it can cause mild side effects like:
The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened live flu viruses. So it may cause mild flu-like symptoms, including runny nose, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever.
Very rarely, the flu vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction.
If your child has any side effects, talk to your doctor about giving either acetaminophen or ibuprofen and to find out the right dose.
A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad on the injection site may help reduce soreness, as can moving or using the arm.
Some things might prevent a person from getting the flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor to see if the vaccine is still recommended if your child:
In the past, people with an egg allergy had to check with their doctor about whether the flu vaccine was OK for them because it’s grown inside eggs. But health experts now say that the amount of egg protein in the vaccine is so tiny that it’s safe even for kids with a severe egg allergy. This is especially important during a severe flu season.
Still, a child with an egg allergy should get the flu vaccine in a doctor’s office, not at a supermarket, drugstore, or other venue.
If your child is sick and has a fever, or is wheezing, talk to your doctor about whether to reschedule the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine is a good idea for all families. It does not cause the flu, and it helps keep kids and parents from getting sick.
Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly and are worse than the sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. The flu is very contagious. Find out what to do in this article for parents.
The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Even though it’s best to get it then, being vaccinated later can still help protect against the flu.
Knowing the doctor-recommended flu vaccination schedule can be confusing. Use this tool to help you understand how many doses your child needs.
Get the basics on how flu spreads and how to protect yourself.
The flu can make you sick for a week or more. Find out how to get protected from the influenza virus.
Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.
If you’re old enough to read this, you’ve probably had most of your shots. But even bigger kids may need a shot once in a while. Find out more about them in this article for kids.
Missing out on shots puts you at more serious risk than you might think. That one little “ouch” moment protects you from some major health problems.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Get tips for fending off the flu in this article for teens.
If you’re afraid of shots, you’re not alone. Next time your doc asks you to roll up your sleeve, try these tips.
The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.
Just about everybody needs a flu shot. Find out more in this article for kids.
Which vaccines does your child need and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.
Immunizations protect kids from many dangerous diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy.
Doctors recommend that all teens get vaccinated against the flu. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a shot. Here are the facts on flu vaccines.
Feeling suddenly feverish, achy, and crummy all over?
Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Vaccines help keep kids healthy, but many parents still have questions about them. Get answers here.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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