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Flu Shot (Vaccine) for Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

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 from person to person through coughing and sneezing. 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 it is available. 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?

  • Your child has any serious allergies, such as an egg allergy that causes a severe reaction. The flu vaccine may contain a small amount of egg protein. The amount is so low that it is not likely to cause an allergic reaction. Egg-free vaccines may be available.
  • Your child has a health condition, such as diabetes or asthma.
  • Your child developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine. He or she may not be able to get any flu vaccine unless the provider feels the benefits outweigh the risks.

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:

  • Your child is younger than 6 months.
  • Your child had an allergic reaction to the flu shot or any part of it.
  • Your child is sick or has a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher.
  • Your child is allergic to thimerosal (mercury). He or she may need to get a flu vaccine that does not contain thimerosal.

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:

  • Your child's mouth and throat are swollen.
  • Your child is wheezing or having trouble breathing.
  • Your child has chest pain or his or her heart is beating faster than normal.
  • Your child feels like he or she is going to faint.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's face is red or swollen.
  • Your child has hives that spread over his or her body.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child feels weak or dizzy.
  • Your child has increased pain, redness, or swelling around the area where the shot was given.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's flu shot.

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.