Should Your Baby Get a Flu Shot?

It’s the season of giving, including sharing germs.  Babies and children are most susceptible to serious cases of the flu that can lead to greater health problems like pneumonia.  In fact, on average, 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized due to the flu every year, but most of them are under 2.  Babies are most vulnerable because their immune systems are still immature due to their continuously developing bodies and their lack of worldly exposure to microbes.  Additionally, infants tend to put things in their mouths without regard for sanitation.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months should get a yearly flu shot. It is most effective at the beginning of the season, in the fall.  However if you or your little one haven’t gotten it yet, it’s not too late.  You can still get it up to February, which is helpful if your little one is not yet 6 months or if you had a particular reason preventing your baby from getting it earlier.

Should Your Baby Get a Flu Shot?The flu vaccine comes in both an injection and a nasal spray.  Children ages 2 or older who do not have a history of asthma or wheezing can get the nasal spray.  Otherwise, infants under 2 should get the injection.  If your baby is getting her flu shot for the first time, she may need two doses 1 month apart.  Your pediatrician can determine whether your baby needs a second dose as is recommended for some children under age 9.  Usually the flu shot or mist takes around two weeks to take effect.

Flu vaccinations can have side-effects, although usually mild.  Typical side effects include a low-grade fever, muscle aches, headaches, soreness or redness at the injection site (for those who get the shot) and a runny nose or cough (for those who get the nasal spray).  If your children experience any extreme reactions including high fever, prolonged flu-like symptoms and swelling of the throat or at the injection site, consult your physician immediately.  It is rare for children to react adversely to the flu shot but it can happen.

There are a few exceptions to the rule on who should get the flu shot.  You should consult your pediatrician if your child has been sick recently or had other vaccines recently.  Children with existing medical conditions including asthma, immune deficiencies or nerve disorders may not be eligible for the flu shot.  Additionally, children who are allergic to eggs can have side-effects from the flu vaccine because it contains egg protein.  Your doctor may still recommend it but may ask to monitor your child after the vaccine.  For infants who have just reached the eligibility age of 6 months, you may not know whether your baby is allergic to eggs so take extra caution.

The flu shot helps protect people from various strains of the flu that scientists believe will be most prevalent during the winter flu season.  Therefore, each year the flu shot defends against different strains of the illness.  That’s why we need one each year.  For the 2014-2015 season, the flu vaccine contains H1N1, H3N2 and two strains of influenza B.

The flu shot is not only recommended for babies, but also adults who are around babies.  That means you, mom and dad.  So take a family trip to the doctor or a clinic to get those flu shots together.