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Prepare Your Family for Flu Season

​While you can catch the flu any time of the year, the virus is most common in the US between October and May and usually peaks around January or February.

The flu vaccine is the best way for your whole family to prepare for this coming flu season. Flu viruses are unpredictable. They are always changing over time and from year to year. So parents should get their children (and themselves) vaccinated as soon as possible.

What is the Flu?

Flu is short for influenza. It is an infection of the breathing system (nose, throat and lungs), but it can affect the whole body.

All flu viruses cause illness that can last a week or more. Symptoms include:

  • A sudden fever (usually above 101°F or 38.3°C)
  • Chills and body shakes
  • Headache, body aches, and being a lot more tired than usual
  • Sore throat
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Stuffy, runny nose

The flu is very contagious. Flu viruses spread easily through the air with coughing and sneezing. They also spread by touching things like doorknobs or toys and then touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Who Needs the Flu Vaccine?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all people (6 months of age and older) get the flu vaccine every year.

This includes children, their brothers and sisters, parents, and caregivers. When others are vaccinated, they are less likely to get the flu. As a result, they are less likely to pass it on to children. This is known as "cocooning."

Vaccination is especially important for:

  • Children with conditions that increase their risk of complications from the flu
  • Children of American Indian/Alaska Native heritage
  • Adults who provide care for children 
    • with high-risk conditions 
    • children younger than 5 years (especially infants younger than 6 months)
  • Doctors, nurses, other health care workers and all child care providers and staff
  • All women who are pregnant, are considering pregnancy, are in the postpartum period, or are breastfeeding during the flu season

This Season’s Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine includes either 3 strains (trivalent) or 4 strains (quadrivalent). These are the strains that are anticipated to circulate around the US this flu season.

The trivalent vaccine protects against the same 3 strains as last season. These are:

  • Influenza A (H1N1)
  • Influenza A (H3N2)
  • Influenza B

The quadrivalent vaccine protects against the 3 strains from the trivalent vaccine and adds a different influenza B strain (also the same as last season). The AAP does not recommend one vaccine over another this season. Just be sure everyone gets one!

Even though the strains have not changes from last season, everyone needs the flu vaccine this year. This is because protection from the flu vaccine only lasts for about 6 to 12 months. 

Manufacturers think as many as 151 to 159 million doses of influenza vaccine will be distributed in the United States this season. This means enough vaccine should be available in your community.

Who Should Get Which Flu Vaccine?

There are 2 types of flu vaccine.

  • Inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) is given as a shot. There are 2 kinds of shots. The intramuscular (into the muscle) shot is licensed and recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, including people with and without chronic medical conditions. The intradermal (into the skin) shot is licensed for use only in people 18 through 64 years of age.
  • Live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is sprayed into the nose. LAIV is licensed for use in health people 2 years through 49 years of age. Some studies show that LAIV may work better than IIV to prevent the flu in young children. When available, LAIV should be considered for healthy children 2 through 8 years of age. 

Both types of flu vaccine are safe and work well to protect your child from the flu. Your doctor can help you decide which vaccine is best for your child and family.

Vaccine Doses in Children

The number of vaccine doses needed this season depends on your child’s age and past flu vaccine history.

  • Children 9 years and older need only 1 dose.
  • Children 6 months through 8 years of age need only 1 dose if they got: 
    • At least 1 dose of flu vaccine last season
    • 2 flu vaccines since July 1, 2010
  • Children 6 months through 8 years of age getting the flu vaccine for the first time (or who didn't meet the above criteria) need 2 doses. 

No flu vaccine is licensed for children less than 6 months of age.

Egg Allergy & the Flu Vaccine

Research shows the flu shot is safe for nearly all children with egg allergy.

  • Any child who has had a mild reaction to egg (hives) can receive the flu vaccine.
  • If your child has had a severe reaction to egg (facial swelling, wheezing, trouble breathing, vomiting), your pediatrician should check with an allergist before giving the flu vaccine.

Additional Information

Last Updated
Committee on Infectious Diseases (Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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