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    Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

    Flu Vaccines for Children Under 2

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    Who Should Get the Shot, and When? continued...

    The flu vaccine doesn’t help kids as long as other vaccines do. That's because the flu virus is always changing. Each year, the illness shifts a little bit, so a new vaccine has to be prepared.

    The first time a child younger than 9 gets a flu vaccine, she’ll need two doses at least a month apart. Kids usually get the shot in the leg or arm.

    If your child has one of these conditions, make sure they get a shot. They may be more likely to have serious problems linked to the flu:

    Does the Vaccine Have Side Effects?

    Yes, but they’re mild. They include:

    • Redness or soreness in the body part that got the shot
    • Low-grade fever
    • Aches

    The vaccine can’t give your child the flu.

    More serious side effects are rare, but your child could be allergic to the shot. Signs of allergic reaction to a flu vaccine include:

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

    Flu vaccines for children may not be safe for everyone. Your child’s doctor may not want to give her a shot if she:

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

    Doctors say the vaccine has such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in kids who have an egg allergy. If your kid does, talk to her doctor before you let her get the flu shot. Or ask about egg-free vaccines.

    Is the Vaccine Safe for Young Children?

    Many parents worry about giving their young child a flu vaccine. Some contain thimerosal, an ingredient that keeps them from going bad. Some people think there’s a link between it and developmental disorders in children. But studies haven’t found a connection. If you’re worried, ask your child's doctor about a vaccine that doesn't have thimerosal. They exist, but supplies are limited. If your child is older than 2, she can get the nasal spray vaccine, which doesn't have it.

    Flu vaccines for children are some of the safest medicines we have. You may not like the idea of your child getting yet another shot, but you have to weigh the very small chance of a side effect with the much more serious risks of actually getting the flu. It’s 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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