Children and the Flu

Children and the Flu

Children and the flu

The children’s flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray to young children to help protect them against flu. Vaccinating children also protects others that are vulnerable to flu, such as babies, older people, pregnant women and people with serious long-term illnesses.

Children who get the flu have the same symptoms as adults, including a high temperature, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and a sore throat that can last up to a week. Some children develop a very high temperature or complications of flu, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and a painful ear infection. They may need further treatment in hospital.

Children with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, serious heart conditions, underlying neurological problems and kidney or liver disease are at higher risk from flu. They are more likely to get severely ill if they catch flu so it is especially important that they are vaccinated.

How is the nasal spray flu vaccine given?

child flu vaccinationThe vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. The vaccine is absorbed very quickly and will work even if, after the vaccination, your child develops a runny nose, sneezes or blows their nose. The administration process is quick, and painless.

How many doses of the flu vaccine do children need?

Most children only need a single dose of the nasal spray. Children aged 2 to 9 years at risk of flu because of an underlying medical condition, who have not received flu vaccine before, should have 2 doses of the nasal spray given at least 4 weeks apart.

Side effects of the flu vaccine for children

The nasal spray flu vaccine has few side effects; most common ones being getting a runny nose after vaccination for a few days.

More information on side effects can be viewed here

When should the nasal spray flu vaccine be delayed for children?

Children should have their nasal spray flu vaccination delayed if:

  • they are unwell with a high temperature.
  • If they have a heavily blocked or runny nose as it might stop the vaccine getting into their system.

When should children not have the nasal spray flu vaccine?

Children may not be able to have the nasal spray flu vaccine if they have:

  • a severely weakened immune system
  • severe egg allergy with anaphylaxis that has led to intensive care hospital admission
  • severe asthma (i.e. those being treated with steroid tablets or have needed intensive care due to asthma)
  • are currently wheezy or have been wheezy in the past 72 hours
  • an allergy to any of the vaccine ingredients (e.g. neomycin)
  • a condition that requires salicylate treatment

The nasal spray is not licensed for children under the age of 2, so if your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they will be offered an injected flu vaccine.

How safe is the flu vaccine for children?

The nasal spray flu vaccine will help protect your child against flu and serve to prevent spreading the infection to their family, carers and the wider population. The flu vaccine for children has a good safety record. In the UK, millions of children have been vaccinated safely and successfully.