What Parents Need To Know About Flu and Flu Shots

Children younger than 5 years of age –especially those younger than 2 years old– are at high risk of serious complications. A flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting flu and spreading it to others.

Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Many children are hospitalized and a few die each year from the flu.

Complications from the flu among children can include:

  • Pneumonia: an illness where the lungs get infected and inflamed
  • Dehydration: when a child’s body loses too much water and salts, often because fluid losses are greater than from fluid intake)
  • Worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma
  • Brain dysfunction such as encephalopathy
  • Sinus problems and ear infections
  • Myocarditis which is an inflammation of the heart.
  • In rare cases, flu complications can lead to death.
  • Flu seasons vary in severity, however every year children are at risk

Children at greatest risk of serious flu-related complications include the following:

    1. Children younger than 6 months old

      These children are too young to be vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to make sure people around them are vaccinated.
    2. Children aged 6 months up to their 5th birthday
      To protect their health, all children 6 months and older should be vaccinated against flu each year. Vaccinating young children, their families, and other caregivers can also help protect them from getting sick.
    3. American Indian and Alaskan Native children

      These children are more likely to have severe flu illness that results in
      hospitalization or death.
    4. Children aged 6 months through 18 years with chronic health problems, including:
      • Asthma
      • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions (including disorders of
        the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation).
      • Chronic lung disease.
      • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
      • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
      • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
      • Kidney disorders
      • Liver disorders
      • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
      • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
      • Children who are taking aspirin or salicylate-containing medicines
      • Children with extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or more).

Vaccination is the best protection against flu

The best prevention for the flu is with the flu vaccine. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October.
Flu vaccines are updated each season if necessary to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

Types of flu vaccines for children:

Your child’s health care provider will know which vaccines are right for your child.
For more information on the different types of flu vaccines available visit CDC’s Different Types of Flu Vaccines page.

Children should be vaccinated every flu season

Children should be vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against flu. For children who will need two doses of flu vaccine, the first dose should be given as early in the season as possible. For other children, it is good practice to get them vaccinated by the end of October.

More info on the Flu Vaccine:
AAP Issues Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2018-2019.aspx