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Flu Vaccines for Children Under 2

Flu Vaccine in Children: What the Experts Say continued...

The benefits of flu vaccine for children don't last as long as those of other vaccines. That's because the flu virus is always changing. Each year, the flu is a little different, so a new vaccine has to be prepared.

The first time your child younger than 9 gets a flu vaccine, he or she will need two doses, separated by at least a month. A child usually receives the vaccine in the leg or arm.

Flu vaccines are especially important for kids with certain diseases or conditions. These children may be at greater risk of serious complications related to the flu. It's especially important that children with any of the following conditions or treatments get the flu vaccine.

  • Heart, lung, or kidney disease
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes or other metabolic disorders
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • HIV or other conditions that weaken the immune system
  • Treatment with cancer drugs or steroids
  • Long-term aspirin treatment, which when combined with the flu raises the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious illness in children


Side Effects of Flu Vaccines for Children

The side effects from flu vaccines for children are mild. They include:

  • Redness or soreness at the site of the injection
  • Low-grade fever
  • Aches

Remember that flu vaccines for children cannot give your child the flu. More serious side effects are very rare.

Allergic reactions are a risk with any medicine. Signs of allergic reaction to a flu vaccine include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness

If you see any of these signs, get emergency help.

Flu vaccines for children may not be safe for everyone. Your pediatrician may not want to vaccinate your child if he or she:

  • Has had severe allergic reactions to past flu vaccines
  • Has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an immune system disorder
  • Is currently sick 

It's long been advised that people with allergies to eggs should not get the flu shot. However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the vaccine contains such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in those with an egg allergy. If you have a severe egg allergy (anaphylaxis), talk to your doctor before getting the flu vaccine. Also, flu vaccines not made with the use of eggs are available. 

Is the Flu Vaccine Safe for Young Children?

Many parents worry about giving their young child a flu vaccine. Some flu vaccines contain a preservative called thimerosal. Some people believe this preservative might be linked with developmental disorders in children. However, studies have not found any connection. But if you are concerned, you can ask your child's pediatrician if your child can receive a flu vaccine that doesn't contain thimerosal. Keep in mind: there are limited supplies of thimerosal-free shots. If your child is older than age 2, he or she may receive the nasal spray vaccine, which doesn't contain thimerosol.

Flu vaccines for children are some of the safest medicines we have. Although you may not like the idea of your child getting yet another vaccine, you have to weigh the very small chance of a side effect with the much more serious risks of actually getting the flu. Remember: it is always better to prevent an illness than to treat it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on July 09, 2014

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