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Flu Vaccines for Children Under 2

Although the flu is rarely serious in healthy adults, it can be much more dangerous in children. Kids are also two to three times more likely to get the flu. Flu vaccines for children are a simple and safe way to keep your family healthy.

Flu Signs and Symptoms in Children

Many different strains of the influenza virus cause the flu. Different strains are common in different years.

Even though the type of flu may vary, the signs and symptoms are generally the same. In children, signs of the flu include:

  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever -- as high as 103 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Vomiting and nausea

The flu itself isn't the only problem. Sometimes, the flu can weaken a child's immune system, allowing him or her to contract a bacterial infection. Young children are at higher risk of complications from the flu, which include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Earaches

How Do Flu Vaccines for Children Work?

A flu vaccine is the best way to protect kids from the flu and its complications. There are two types of flu vaccines -- one is given as a shot and the other as an inhaled nasal spray. The inhaled version of the flu vaccine has not been approved for use in children under 2 or for those with chronic medical conditions. Therefore, children under the age of 2 should receive the flu shot vaccine. However, the CDC now recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 through 8 years old when it is available.

The injected flu vaccine is made from dead influenza virus. Because the virus is inactive, it can't give your child the flu. When the body's immune system comes in contact with the flu vaccine, it develops special antibodies designed to fight the virus. When your child gets infected with the real flu later, the body is ready to defend itself. If all goes well, your child's body fights off the virus and develops no symptoms at all.

Flu vaccines for children don't always work. Since there are many different strains of the flu, your child could be infected with a type of flu that the vaccine doesn't protect against. But even in this case, the flu vaccine should still make the symptoms less severe.

Remember that flu shots for children do not protect against all viruses. Your child can still get colds and other infections.

To learn more about why flu vaccines are so important for children, watch the CDC's video: Children Lost to the Flu.

Flu Vaccine in Children: What the Experts Say

The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccines for most people ages 6 months and up. Children under 2 are at greater risk of having complications from the flu than older kids and adults. Children should get the vaccine by October of each year. Flu season is usually between November and May, with its peak in February.

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