Your Child's Immunizations: Influenza Vaccine
Influenza — what most of us call "the flu" — is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract.
Flu season runs from October to May. It's best to get a flu shot early in the season, as it gives the body a chance to build up immunity to (protection from) the flu. But getting a flu shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older (instead of just certain groups, as was recommended before). But it's especially important that those in higher-risk groups get vaccinated. They include:
- all kids 6 months through 4 years old
- anyone 65 years and older
- women who will be pregnant during flu season
- anyone whose immune system is weakened from medications or illnesses (like HIV infection)
- residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
- any adult or child with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma
- kids or teens who take aspirin regularly and are at risk for developing Reye syndrome if they get the flu
- health care personnel who have direct contact with patients
- Native Americans and Alaskan natives
- caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group
Infants younger than 6 months can't get the vaccine, but if the parents and older kids in the household get it, that will help protect the baby. This is important because infants are more at risk for serious complications from the flu.
- Kids under 9 years old who are getting the flu shot for the first time will receive two separate shots at least a month apart.
- Those under 9 who have received the flu vaccine before still might need two doses if they did not receive at least two vaccines since July 2010, or if the number of shots they've received since then is unknown. This is to ensure that all kids are vaccinated against the H1N1 flu strain that surfaced in 2009.
- Kids older than 9 years old need only one dose of the vaccine.
Talk to your doctor about how many doses your child needs.
A non-shot option, the nasal mist vaccine, is approved for use in healthy 2- to 49-year-olds. It contains live but weakened virus that will not cause the flu. However, the vaccine it isn't recommended for kids with certain medical conditions or pregnant women.
In the past, there have been vaccine shortages and delays. So talk with your doctor about availability, and about which vaccine is right for your kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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