West Valley Medical Center Close Window
Library Search Go Advanced Search
Español (Inicio)

HealthSheets™

Flu Vaccine for Children

A flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu (influenza) for your child and other family members. The vaccine is given in the form of a shot (injection). It’s best to get vaccinated each year, as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. This can be at your healthcare provider's office, health clinic, or pharmacy. If you have questions, talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

Woman sitting on exam table with baby on lap. Healthcare provider preparing to give baby injection.

Flu facts

  • The virus in the flu vaccine has been killed (inactivated) and won’t give your child the flu.

  • The flu is caused by a virus. It can’t be treated with antibiotics.

  • The flu can be life threatening. Every year, thousands of people die of complications from the flu.

  • Influenza is not the same as stomach flu, the 24-hour bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Stomach flu is most likely caused by a GI (gastrointestinal) infection, not the flu.

  • Flu vaccines are safe for most children. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

How a flu vaccine protects your child

There are many types (strains) of flu viruses. Medical experts predict which strains are most likely to make people sick each year. Flu vaccines are made from these strains. With the shot, killed (inactivated) flu viruses are injected into your child’s body. The vaccines prompt the body to make antibodies to fight these flu strains.

Some children may get mild symptoms after a flu vaccine. These may include a runny nose, fever, or pain at the injection site for a day or 2. Symptoms can be managed with children’s strength over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider before using OTC medicines. Note: Don’t give OTC cough and cold medicines to a child younger than age 6, unless your child's provider tells you to do so. Don’t give your child aspirin. Don’t give ibuprofen to an infant age 6 months or younger.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older get vaccinated, with some exceptions. And the CDC recommends: 

  • A series of 2 vaccines for children 6 months to 8 years who are getting their first flu vaccine

A nasal spray made of live but weakened flu virus is not recommended for the 2017-2018 flu season. The CDC says the nasal spray did not seem to protect against the flu over the last several flu seasons.

Children may not be able to get a flu shot if they:

  • Have had severe allergic reactions to previous flu vaccines

  • Have had Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is a serious paralyzing condition.

You and your child's healthcare provider should discuss whether your child should get the flu vaccine.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.