The flu vaccine protects against the flu (influenza), which is a very contagious infection of the respiratory system. Flu germs spread through the air (from coughing, sneezing, etc.) and from contact with infected objects and surfaces. The flu can make your child feel very achy and tired, causing fever, chills, loss of appetite, coughing, runny nose, and sore throat.
Though the flu is common, it can be uncomfortable and dangerous, especially for young kids. The flu can lead to complications like pneumonia, staph and ear infections, and fevers that may cause seizures. Though some parents might consider the flu a more serious cold, the virus sends more than 20,000 children under 5 to the hospital each year; children under 2 face the most serious risk.
Because complications from the flu can be so serious, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that children ages 6 months through 19 years receive the flu vaccine annually, as well as parents, caregivers, and anyone else who has close contact with kids . The vaccine is also very important for pregnant women.
The flu vaccine is especially recommended for kids and adults who are at higher risk from getting very sick should they contract the flu, including:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Health care workers
- Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
- Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
- People 50 years old and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medial conditions