Flu Vaccine Basics

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?

People in contact with certain groups of children should get a seasonal flu vaccine in order to protect the child (or children) in their lives from the flu. The following contacts of children are recommended for seasonal influenza vaccination:

  • Close contacts of children younger than 5 years old (people who live with them) should get a flu vaccine.
  • Out-of-home caregivers (nannies, daycare providers, etc.) of children younger than 5 years old should get a flu vaccine.
  • People who live with or have other close contact with a child or children of any age with a chronic health problem (asthma, diabetes, etc.) should get a flu vaccine.

In addition, all health care workers should be vaccinated each year to keep from spreading the flu to their patients. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a seasonal flu vaccine. This includes all children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday.

Flu Symptoms

It is important to watch for any signs that your child doesn't feel well and to pay attention to any unusual behavior. Although the symptoms for all flu are similar, infants could have a fever or be lethargic, but may not have a cough or other respiratory symptoms. All types of flu can cause:

  • Fever
  • Coughing and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Recommended Before Pregnancy

Before becoming pregnant, a woman should be up-to-date on routine adult vaccines. This will help protect you and your child. Generally speaking, live vaccines should not be given within a month before conception, while inactivated (killed) vaccines may be given at any time before or during pregnancy, if needed.

It is best to talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations before you become pregnant. It is safe, and very important, for a woman who is pregnant during flu season to receive the inactivated flu vaccine. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization.

Recommended After Pregnancy

It is safe for a woman to receive vaccines right after giving birth, even while she is breastfeeding. A woman who has not received the vaccine for the prevention of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) should be vaccinated right after delivery. Vaccinating a new mother against pertussis (whooping cough) reduces the risk to her infant, too. Also, a woman who is not immune to measles, mumps and rubella and/or varicella (chickenpox) should be vaccinated before leaving the hospital.

Did you know that your baby gets disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy? But this protection is temporary and only for the diseases that you are immune to. Protect your new baby and learn about infant immunization.

Pregnancy and Flu

Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.

Protect your unborn child.

If you are pregnant, you should get vaccinated against flu as soon as possible. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. Note that pregnant women should not receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine LAIV (FluMist®)

  • Severe illness in the mother can be stressful to the fetus.
  • Changes to a pregnant woman's immune system can make her more sensitive to the flu and result in serious complications if she is infected with flu.
  • A diagnosis of infection in the fetus or infant can be challenging. The effects of the flu on a fetus are also difficult to predict.

Guidance on Breastfeeding

Mothers who are breastfeeding should continue to nurse their babies while being treated for the flu. Breast milk passes on antibodies from the mother to a baby. Antibodies help fight off infection.

  • If possible, only adults who are not sick should care for infants, including providing feedings.
  • If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give your milk to your baby.
  • Be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby's face; wash your hands often with soap and water.

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