Child Health, Safety, and Well-being

 Tips: Flu and Vaccines

Last Updated: November 01, 2023

​​​​​​As families prepare for back to school, the change in seasons, and spending the holidays with loved ones, planning to ensure children's health and future may look different than previous years, especially with the upcoming flu season right around the corner.  

Children can be exposed to vaccine preventable diseases daily. Babies are born with an immature immune system which ca​n fight some germs and diseases, but there are some serious diseases a baby’s immune system cannot handle. 

Vaccines help to strengthen a child’s immune system to learn how to fight germs. Many vaccines provide lifetime protection against germs and diseaseExternal Link, but there are a few vaccines such as tetanus and seasonal flu that require boosters to maintain the body's defenses. ​The military endorses childhood vaccinations as recommended by the CDCExternal Link

​Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that is more dangerous than the common cold for children. The flu causes more hospitalizations among children than any other vaccine-preventable disease. Children younger than 5 years old (especially those under 2 years old) and children with certain chronic health conditions (e.g., asthma, neurologic disease, immune suppression) are at a higher risk of developing flu complications. Especially since flu may increase risk of other diseases, it is more important than ever to get your child vaccinated to prevent the spread of the flu. 

Children who receive their annual flu vaccination have been shown to have reduced flu illness, reduced doctor’s visits for flu, fewer missed school days, and reduced risk of flu-related hospitalizations. Getting a flu vaccineExternal Link is the best protection against flu and its potentially serious complications, and getting a COVID-19 vaccineExternal Link is the best protection against COVID-19. It is also another reason to ensure proper handwashing to prevent the spread of germs.

Flu Frequently Asked Questions

  • ​When is flu s​eason? The exact timing and duration can vary, but flu season activity often begins to increase in October and peak between December and February, although flu activity can last as late as May. 

  • Why should people get vaccinated against the flu? An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Flu vaccines have been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illness, hospitalizations, and even the risk of flu-related death in children. 
  • What kinds of flu vaccine are available? There are many FDA-approved vaccine options, including the flu shot and nasal spray flu vaccine. 
  • Are any of the available flu vaccines recommended over others? No. The CDC and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccination annually with rare exception. 
  • When should I get vaccinated? Make plans to get vaccinated early in the fall before flu season begins. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Children who need two doses of vaccine should ​start the process sooner because the two doses must be given four weeks apart. 
  • Why do I need a flu vaccine every year? A person's immune response to the vaccine declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed. Also, flu viruses are constantly changing requiring flu vaccines to be updated each year based on the flu viruses that may be most common during the upcoming season. 
  • Can the flu vaccine give me the flu? No, the vaccine cannot cause illness. But there may be mild and short-lasting side effects, such as tiredness, muscle aches, soreness where the shot was given, runny nose, etc. 
  • Does the flu vaccine work right away? No. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for the body to provide protection against the flu viruses. That's why it's best to get vaccinated before the influenza viruses start to spread.