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Flu Shot (Vaccine) for Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is the flu shot?

The flu shot is a vaccine given in your child's upper arm or thigh to prevent influenza (the flu). The flu is caused by a virus. The virus spreads through direct contact with someone who has the flu. For example, a person with the virus on his or her hands can spread it by shaking hands with someone. Several types of viruses cause the flu. The viruses change over time, so new vaccines are made each year. The vaccine begins to protect your child about 2 weeks after he or she gets it. The flu shot can be given to children who are 6 months or older.

When should my child get a flu vaccine?

Your child should get the vaccine as soon as recommended each year, usually starting in September or October. Children 6 months through 8 years old may need 2 doses. The 2 doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart. The second dose should be given by the end of October. Your child can then usually receive 1 dose each year. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you if your child needs more than 1 dose for any reason.

Recommended Influenza Immunization Schedule

What should I tell my child's doctor before my child gets a flu shot?

Who should not get the flu shot or should wait to get it?

Your child may need to wait to get the flu shot or instead get the nasal spray. Tell the healthcare provider if:

What are the risks of the flu shot?

The vaccine may cause mild symptoms, such as a fever, headache, and muscle aches. Your child may also have mild to moderate soreness or redness at the area where the shot was given. Your child may still get the flu after he or she receives the vaccine. Your child may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This can be life-threatening.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.