The Flu Shot for Children: When Is Flu Season & Who Needs a Flu Shot

Doctor giving a flu shot to a little girl

Flu season is right around the corner, and certain populations and age groups are more at risk than others. For example, children who are five years old and younger are at a higher risk for serious influenza complications, which means that prevention is key. The symptoms of flu are typically worse than those of the common cold, and the flu typically affects kids for a week or more. However, many parents are concerned about the safety of the flu shot for toddlers and wonder when can babies get a flu shot as well.

This article will discuss the importance of the flu shot for children, why to get a flu shot for toddlers, and the recommended age range for getting a flu shot.

When Is Flu Season?

Although individuals can contract the flu at any time of the year, flu season is considered to be between the months of October and February. Influenza virus activity picks up in October and November in the U.S., and then the activity peaks in December and January. Therefore, the best time of year to vaccinate children is early fall because it takes approximately two weeks for the body’s immune system to fully prepare itself against the flu.

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Who Needs a Flu Shot?

Anyone can benefit from receiving a flu shot; however, it is highly recommended for very young and older individuals. Children and senior citizens often do not have as strong immune systems as teenagers and young adults, so a flu shot can provide extra protection.

It is also recommended that pregnant women, women who are trying to get pregnant, women who have recently given birth, and breastfeeding mothers receive a flu shot. Individuals who live in long-term care facilities, who are caregivers for children, or who have immune system-related illnesses should get a flu shot too.

Flu Shot for Toddlers

Flu shots for toddlers are very important because young children often spend time at daycare, put toys in their mouth, and share toys with other kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that toddlers especially under the age of five be vaccinated because of their high risk of flu.

Flu shots are not 100 percent effective in preventing the flu since there are so many different strains of the disease, and influenza is unpredictable. Current research shows that most children with egg allergies can safely get the flu vaccine, that the influenza vaccine does not cause autism, and that you can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine.

When Can Babies Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine to protect themselves against the flu. Babies younger than six months are at a high risk of getting the flu as well, but research has shown that the current vaccine may not be safe for babies that young.

The flu vaccine is also not recommended for children who have had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past. If young children have not been exposed to the flu virus in the past, they may feel achy and develop a low fever for up to two days after receiving the vaccine. However, these side effects are rare and minimal, which means that early fall flu shots are beneficial for most children over the age of six months.

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