With the season of gathering comes the sharing of meals, stories, traditions, gifts – and germs. Lots and lots of germs.
It’s one reason there's often an initial spike in cases of the flu this time of year. We have ample interactions with friends and family, and the pesky virus can spread when those with the illness cough, sneeze, or talk within six feet of us. Yikes.
Hopefully, you already rolled up your sleeve for your annual flu shot, you wash your hands often, and disinfecting wipes are your friend. But you also need to make sure your little one is just as prepared to ward off the flu.
When can a baby get a flu shot?
If your baby is less than six months old, they're too young to get the flu vaccine. The best way to protect them from the flu is to make sure those around them are vaccinated, wash their hands often, and cover their cough.
If your baby is six months or older, a flu vaccine is highly recommended. Children younger than two are especially high risk for getting the flu and experiencing flu-related complications. These complications could include pneumonia, sinus problems, brain dysfunction, or, in rare cases, death.
Even if your child is otherwise healthy, they are simply at risk because of their age. We’ll say it again: Get your baby vaccinated.
Is the flu vaccine safe for babies?
Don't fear the flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans have been safely getting flu shots for over 50 years. Most people experience no side effects at all or mild ones, like an ache where the shot was given.
For those concerned the flu shot will cause their baby to catch the flu, put your worries to rest. The vaccine contains an inactive virus, meaning it cannot cause the flu. Simple as that.
You may have heard that vaccines for children, including the flu shot, are linked to autism. This topic has been thoroughly researched and completely debunked. The idea came about when a fraudulent study linked a vaccine preservative to autism. This theory has been disproved several times over, the study was withdrawn, and the author lost his medical license. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about this.
What kind of vaccine should my baby get?
The shot is approved for children six months and older. A quick pinch and they’re ready to take on flu season.
This year, the spray is approved for children two years and older. But if your child has certain medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, a flu shot may be the recommended route.
Does my baby need a double dose of flu vaccine?
Some children will require two doses of the flu vaccine. Babies six months and older who are getting vaccinated for the first time and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine will need two in order to be protected. The first dose “primes” the immune system and should be given as soon as possible. The second dose provides immune protection and should be given a month after the first one.
Ask your health care provider what vaccine is recommended for your baby and how many doses they need to best protect them from the flu.