Influenza (also called flu) is a virus that can cause serious illness. It’s more than just a runny nose and sore throat. The flu can cause serious complications for babies and young children, so it’s really important to protect them from it.
The best way to protect your baby from the flu is to make sure he gets a flu vaccine each year before flu season (October through May). Even though your baby’s more likely to get the flu during flu season, he can get it any time of year. Babies 6 months and older need a flu vaccine every year. There are two ways for your baby to get the flu vaccine:
- Flu shot. Children 6 months and older can get the flu shot.
- Flu nasal spray. This is a spray you put in your child’s nose. Most children 2 years or older can get the flu nasal spray. But it’s not recommended for children who have certain health conditions, like asthma, heart and lung problems, or a weak immune system that doesn’t protect them well from infection. The flu nasal spray also isn’t recommended for children who take certain medicines for a long time, like aspirin (called long-term aspirin therapy).
The first time your baby gets the flu vaccine, he gets two doses to give him the best protection from the flu. Your baby gets one dose of the vaccine every year after.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the flu shot as the first choice for children. If you’re not sure which vaccine is best for your baby, ask his health care provider.
What are signs and symptoms that your baby has the flu?
- Being very tired
- Fever (100 F or above), chills or body shakes. Not everyone who has the flu has a fever.
- Headache or muscle or body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting (throwing up) or diarrhea
If your baby has any of these signs or symptoms of the flu, call his provider right away or take him to see his provider.
How can you protect your baby from the flu?
- Get your baby vaccinated when she’s 6 months old.
- Get the flu shot during pregnancy. You pass on your protection against the flu to your baby. Some studies have shown that this can help protect a baby from flu for several months after birth.
- Prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after caring for your baby. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 15 seconds for your hands to dry.
- Protect your baby from people who can get the flu or people who are sick. Everyone in close contact with your baby needs to get the flu vaccine. This includes you, anyone who lives with you and anyone who takes care of your baby. Don’t let people who are sick with the flu or who have signs or symptoms of the flu have contact with your baby.
- Antivirals can help prevent or treat the flu. A provider can prescribe an antiviral medicine to anyone with the flu. Ask your provider about antivirals if you or anyone who lives with you, including your baby, has signs or symptoms of the flu.
To learn more, visit marchofdimes.org.