a kid getting their flu shot
Healthy Living

Flu Shots and Kids: What to Know

Oct 13 2022

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, sickens millions of people around the world each year.

Considering that the flu spreads quickly from person to person, and children that don’t always have the best hygiene habits, it’s very likely your child will come down with the flu at some point over the next months. That’s why it’s important to make sure your kid receives their flu vaccine every year.

Here’s everything you need to know about flu shots for kids.

Types of flu vaccines available for children

First off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests all people 6 months or older get an annual flu vaccine.

There are two types of flu vaccines for children. The type you choose will depend on your child’s age and health.

  • Flu shots: Flu shots are given through a needle that is poked into the muscle of one arm. Children with a medical condition or those 6 months to 2 years need to have a flu shot. Parents can take comfort in the fact that doctors and pharmacists know how to give a flu shot to a child. They are trained to make a shot as quick and painless as possible.
  • Nasal spray vaccines: A nasal vaccine contains a weakened version of the flu virus loaded into a spray device. This vaccine is sprayed into both nostrils, one at a time. If your child is healthy and at least 2 years of age, they can have the nasal spray vaccine.

How many flu shots does a child need?

Children who are 6 months to 9 years of age may need two vaccines to be protected. If you have a child in this age group who has never had a flu vaccine, they will need two doses. However, if your child is over the age of 8 or has had a flu vaccine in the past, they will only need one vaccine.

Flu vaccines need to be given at least four weeks apart. So, make sure to schedule your child’s first vaccine in time to be prepared for the arrival of flu season.

Side effects of the flu shot in babies, toddlers and older children

A flu vaccine can cause a few side effects, especially if kids are getting their very first one. Fortunately, symptoms are usually mild and only last a day or two.

Children, baby and toddler flu shot side effects can include:

  • Body aches
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Swelling and/or pain where the shot was given
  • Tiredness

Side effects of the nasal spray flu vaccine include:

  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

Although rare, some people have allergic reactions to the flu vaccine, which can be serious. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include rash, hives, breathing problems, dizziness and swelling of the eyes or mouth.

If your child has a fever or body aches after getting the flu vaccine, do not treat these symptoms with aspirin. Giving children aspirin can sometimes lead to Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness that causes swelling in the brain and liver. Always treat flu vaccine and flu symptoms with children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Flu shots are a team effort! The more members of your family and friends that get their flu vaccine, the more protected everyone is from getting severely sick, especially the children and seniors in your life.

Have concerns or questions about the flu vaccine? Find a Mercy Health primary care provider near you.

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