It’s actually simple: Adults and children older than 6 months should receive a flu shot each year. This will help them maintain the best protection from the seasonal virus, which can vary from year to year.
“Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, are at higher risk for complications from influenza,” said Dr. Jennifer Dwyer, a pediatrician and medical director of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics. “It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection against the virus, so we recommend getting it as soon as it’s available.”
An average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 is hospitalized each year because of influenza complications, according to the CDC.
High-risk groups also include children with chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes as well as children younger than 6 months. Babies are too young to be vaccinated, so the CDC recommends that people who care for them be vaccinated instead.
Flu season can begin as early as October and last until May.
Parents should be aware of a few special considerations from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics for some children:
- First-Time Vaccination: Children 6 months to 9 years of age need to get two doses of flu vaccine four or more weeks apart during their first season of vaccination. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine. Use this tool to help determine how many doses a child may need.
- Egg Allergies: Most children with a history of mild egg allergy (i.e., hives) can safely receive the flu vaccine without needing an allergy consultation. But parents should talk to an allergist before administering flu vaccine to children with a history of severe egg allergy.
Learn more in our online Flu Center about how to prevent and treat the flu, and how it differs from a cold.
Dr. Carrie Bohenick, who is a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics Brecksville, offers advice as well.