Kids and the flu shot: What parents need to know

flu shot

Every year, thousands of children are hospitalized with the flu. The best way to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated. Many parents have questions about whether or not their child needs a flu shot, which vaccine to get, and where to get it.

Primary and specialty care providers at Boston Children’s Hospital have answers to questions about the flu shot and can help make it easier for parents to get their children vaccinated.

Does my child need a flu shot?

Yes. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend annual flu vaccine for children and teens ages 6 months and older. Young children are at high risk for complications of flu, including pneumonia. Children with chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, are at especially high risk for complications of flu.

Can my child get the flu from the vaccine?

No. Some people experience mild symptoms, such as nausea, sleepiness, headaches, muscle aches and chills. The most common side effects are pain and tenderness at the injection site.

About 10 to 25 percent of children younger than age 2 experience a mild fever within 24 hours of the flu shot.

flu shot

Does the flu shot really protect my child?

Flu shots are about 60 percent effective. Children who are vaccinated and get the flu usually get a mild form of flu.

I heard there are two forms of the flu vaccine. Is one better?

The flu vaccine is available as a trivalent vaccine and a quadrivalent vaccine. Both protect against the same three strains of the flu virus, and the quadrivalent covers an additional B strain of the flu virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend one vaccine over another and urges parents to vaccinate their children as early in the flu season as possible.

When should my child receive a flu shot?

Guide to the flu shot for families
Click to print our family guide to the flu vaccine.

Vaccine shipments have started, and it’s important to vaccinate your child as early as possible.

The CDC recommends vaccinating by the end of October. Babies and children receiving the flu shot for the first time may need two doses, scheduled four weeks apart.

Can my child get the flu shot at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes. The shots must be at different places in the body.

Where can my child get a vaccine?

Children who have appointments at Boston Children’s, whether in primary care or a specialty clinic, can get a flu shot at the hospital.

Can my child get a flu shot at the pharmacy?

Possibly. Pharmacists in Massachusetts are now allowed to immunize children nine years old and older. Many pharmacies, however, still do not offer vaccines to children less than 18 years old. Unless the pharmacy or clinic has a nurse available, children younger than age 18 cannot be vaccinated there.

What if my child has an egg allergy?

Based on new recommendations from the CDC, people with egg allergies can now receive any licensed, age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. Anyone with a severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

Request an appointment with a primary care provider at Boston Children’s.