Flu Shot for Babies

Flu season is here again… and it’s time to think about protecting yourself and your babies, toddlers, and big kids! Here are some fast flu facts and tips for how to stay healthy through the season:

Fast Flu Facts

  1. First things first…what is the flu? It’s a viral infection that mostly effects the breathing passages (from the nose to the lungs) and can even affect the brain and entire body. If you’re suffering from the flu, you’ll have a fever (100-103°F), cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. No fun, right? Unlike the common cold, the flu (also known as influenza) can knock you out for 1-2 weeks…and by weakening your immune system for many weeks…long after the flu is over! It commonly leads to serious secondary infections, like sinusitis or pneumonia.
  2. The flu is especially hard on vulnerable populations: young children and adults over 65. Kids younger than 5-years-old are vulnerable because their immune systems are still immature. And, seniors often have frail immunity, too. Which can push them into serious secondary illnesses. In fact, seniors are 2-3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack in the month after the flu. Influenza killed 80,000 people in the US in 2017, including 180 children…and 20,000 kids were hospitalized.
  1. How does it spread? Influenza is highly contagious (especially a few days before you come down with symptoms and for the entire time you have fever). It is spread two ways: 1) by touch (a sick person touches their nose or mouth and then deposits the germs by touching a door knob, restaurant menu or elevator button and 2) through tiny droplets from sneezing, coughing, or talking.

These points underscore why doctors believe flu shots are so important!

Flu Shot for Babies

Flu shots are recommended for kids 6-months or older, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Babies and toddlers getting it for the first time need two doses with 4 weeks in between. If your child has an egg allergy, it’s still safe for them to receive the vaccine.

Why do kids need 2 flu shots?

Babies under 2 and children who have never received the flu shot before need two doses of the flu shot—administered about 4 weeks apat—because they are less likely to have come in contact with the virus. The first shot primes their little immune systems, while the second helps them develop flu-fighting antibodies.

How long does it take for a child’s body to be immune to the flu after getting the flu shot?

It takes up to 2 weeks for the body to become immune to the flu after the second shot. Remember, if your child needs two shots but has only gotten a single shot, it will not protect them from the flu.

What Are the Side Effects of the Flu Shot for Infants?

Common side effects of the flu shot for babies include:

  • Soreness or redness in the area of the flu shot
  • Swelling in the area of the shot
  • Headaches
  • Mild fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches

Do Flu Shots for Babies and Toddlers Contain Mercury?

Ask for a shot from a single dose, mercury-free vial. Multi-dose vials contain a mercury-based preservative to kill bacteria introduced by repeated needle penetrations into the vial. With a single dose vial, mercury isn’t necessary.

Pregnant women should also receive the flu shot (from a single dose vial). The shot does not contain live viruses, so it’s safe for the fetus inside.

It can be hard watching your little one get pricked by a needle. Once your child is over 2-years-old, you can choose to give the vaccine as an injection or as a nasal spray.

When is the best time to give baby the flu shot?

Ideally, it’s best to get vaccinated in October, but you can still get it through February...late is better than never!

Final Thoughts: Flu Shots for Babies

Unfortunately, influenza is a pretty sneaky infection. You can still catch it even after getting the vaccine, but the illness will likely be less intense than if you didn’t get the shot. And, by getting the shot, you’ll be helping protect your friends and neighbors—especially those struggling with serious illnesses—by doing your part to build to your community’s “herd immunity.”

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