Getting Flu Shots Early Protects Kids from Serious Illness

Thousands of children get sick with the flu annually, and while symptoms are moderate for many of them, the illness can be deadly for others. That’s why Dr. Roman McInnerney, a pediatrician at University Health, urges everyone to get vaccinated every year.

“Flu cases decreased the past few years because of social distancing and other COVID precautions, but we’re expecting numbers to jump back up this year,” McInnerney says. “Hopefully we can stave off more infections by getting vaccinations early, so by the time winter comes around, we’ll all have better protection.”

Complications of the Flu

McInnerney notes that children with a history of asthma are particularly at risk for complications from influenza — the flu — and are more likely to need hospitalization, oxygen support or even intubation. However, even without complications, the flu causes significant family disruption: children staying home from school and parents taking time off work to care for them. 

Flu vaccines, McInnerney says, are the most effective way to protect children against serious illness. Babies as young as 6 months old can get vaccinated. Kids under age 9 who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time need a booster shot 30 days after the initial shot. After getting the booster once, a yearly shot is all children need. 

The Flu Vaccine Is Safe for Kids

“The vaccine is very safe for the average healthy child,” McInnerney says. “It’s a common misconception that if a child has an egg allergy, they shouldn’t get the vaccine, but that’s not necessarily true. Anyone who has had anaphylactic reaction (severe respiratory distress) after getting a flu shot shouldn’t get the vaccine. But if they haven’t had that, it’s proven to be safe, and we want to impart on parents that there’s no demonstration that there’s an association with autism.” 

Flu Symptoms

McInnerney stresses that while the vaccine may come with a few mild side effects, catching the flu is much more unpleasant. Flu symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat 
  • Nasal congestion

Children are more likely than adults to experience vomiting or diarrhea. And even if a child has had the flu before with mild symptoms, the severity of the flu strain may be different from year to year. 

Avoid Getting COVID-19 and Flu at the Same Time

“I recommend parents be proactive and get the flu vaccine for their kids — the sooner, the better,” McInnerney says. “This will be the first full-blown flu season since COVID, and if kids get infected with both at the same time, their illness can potentially be more serious.”

He recommends getting a flu shot before Halloween. “There is a saying, ‘flu before boo,’ so this is an ideal timeframe to shoot for getting vaccinated,” McInnerney said.

Get Your Free Flu Shot

University Health is hosting two drive-thru flu events this October, so you can get your kid’s flu shot before Halloween. Registration is required — save your spot online.

Subscribe icon
Get health living and wellness information, recipes, and patient stories from University Health.
View other related content by:

Tell us your patient story

Share your inspiring personal story of hope and healing at University Health.