Does Your Child Really Need a Flu Shot?

Many people wonder whether their children really need a flu shot. If they are generally healthy kids, why go through the hassle of getting another shot, right? Unfortunately, not only is this thinking wrong, it could potentially endanger your child.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of the flu every year. Kids are at a high risk of developing complications from the flu, especially children under 5.

Child getting a vaccination
JGI / Tom Grill/Blend Images / Getty Images

Quick Facts

  • Kids between 6 months and 18 years old need a flu shot every year.
  • Parents, close contacts (anyone who lives with them), and out-of-home caregivers of children under age 5 should also have a flu shot. This is especially important for those who care for kids under 6 months old.
  • Children six months through age 8 who are receiving the flu shot for the first time need to receive two doses. The doses must be given one month apart. The vaccine becomes effective two weeks after the second dose is given.

Preventing a Severe Case of the Flu

Any child aged 6 months to 18 years with chronic health problems is at risk of flu complications.

Risk factors for severe flu infection include:

  • Asthma or other lung problems
  • Weak immune system
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell anemia or other blood disorders
  • Any condition that makes breathing difficult

If your child has a medical illness, the flu can be especially dangerous for them, and getting the vaccine can help prevent complications.

Children who have a heart condition, for example, might have worsening heart symptoms when they become infected. And children who have an immune problem are likely to get a more aggressive infection when their natural immunity can't fight the virus.

What Else You Should Know

  1. Kids aged 2 to 5 years are more likely to be taken to the doctor or emergency room because of the flu. They can quickly become dehydrated, requiring intravenous fluids.
  2. Kids are the biggest spreaders of the flu. Because they don’t typically practice good hand hygiene and are exposed to many other people, children share and spread germs very easily.
  3. Just because it is getting late into the season doesn’t mean it is too late to get a flu shot.
  4. The best way to protect children under 6 months old from the flu is for all members of the household and all caregivers to get a flu shot.
  5. Pregnant women are considered high risk for complications from the flu and should have a flu shot if they will be pregnant during the flu season.
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Havers F, Fry A, Peacock G, Finelli L. Influenza vaccination and treatment in children with neurologic disorders. Ther Adv Vaccines. 2014;2(4):95-105. doi:10.1177/2051013613519217

  2. Pabst LJ, Chaves SS, Weinbaum C. Trends in compliance with two-dose influenza vaccine recommendations among children aged 6 months through 8 years. Vaccine. 2013;31(31):3116-20. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.04.080

  3. Patria MF, Tagliabue C, Longhi B, Esposito S. Influenza vaccination in children at high risk of respiratory disease. Ther Adv Vaccines. 2013;1(1):21-31. doi:10.1177/2051013613480770

  4. Verger P, Bocquier A, Vergélys C, Ward J, Peretti-watel P. Flu vaccination among patients with diabetes: motives, perceptions, trust, and risk culture - a qualitative survey. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):569. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5441-6

  5. Yudin MH. Risk management of seasonal influenza during pregnancy: current perspectives. Int J Womens Health. 2014;6:681-9. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S47235

Additional Reading
  • "Children and the Flu Vaccine." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 06 Nov 06. US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.