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Why children need the flu vaccine

child with flu

Pregnant women and young children are eligible for a free flu vaccine and Public Health England (PHE) is urging them to get protected before winter really hits

Flu can be horrible for little children, and if they get it, they can spread it around the whole family, including to other young children and babies, and beyond. This is why parents of children aged 2-3 and those in reception, school year 1, 2, 3 and 4 are being offered the vaccine for free.

Most parents (69%) know that flu can be serious and debilitating, especially for young children, and last year more children than ever were vaccinated against flu. What’s more, for those that were vaccinated, the flu vaccine nasal spray reduced the risk of getting flu by 65.8%.

Pregnant women are also being urged to get their free vaccine now, to provide protection to both themselves and their unborn child. Indeed, during pregnancy a woman’s immune system is weakened which makes her more susceptible to the effects of flu. The vaccine also passes on protection to her baby in the first few months after birth.

Flu can be particularly dangerous for people with long-term health conditions. These include: chronic respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis or emphysema; heart, kidney or liver disease; chronic neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy; and diabetes. Vaccinating children, who are super-spreaders of the virus, can reduce spread to other, more vulnerable family members.

Why does my child need a flu vaccine?

Children who get the flu have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat. Some children develop a very high fever or complications of flu, such as bronchitis or pneumonia and may need hospital treatment. The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others in the family.

Where can I get a flu vaccination for my child?

For children, the flu vaccine is not an injection, just a quick, painless nasal spray. If your child is aged 2-3, ask your GP for the free flu vaccine – it’s available now. Parents of children in reception and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 are encouraged to give permission for their children to receive the free nasal spray vaccination at school.

Should I have a flu vaccine if I’m pregnant? I got flu while pregnant and was VERY poorly… I was totally worried about the baby.

If you’re pregnant, you should ask your GP, pharmacist or midwife for your free flu vaccination now, because you’re among the groups most at risk if you catch flu. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby, as pregnant women are less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming seriously ill. The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu and you can have it at any stage of pregnancy.

Why are some people offered a free flu vaccination?

Flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England.

The harsh reality is that flu can kill and the best way to help protect yourself and others is to get the jab. With more people eligible than ever before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them from flu. Taking a few minutes to get the jab could save you or your child from becoming very poorly this winter.

The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others.

What Mumsnetters have to say about the flu and flu vaccine

  • “I had flu as a teenager and was in bed for nearly three weeks; no way I'd risk being that ill while pregnant”
  • “I have 2 other children at school, and the thought of potentially having a new-born plus two others to look after whilst having full blown flu is too much to contemplate. Also, high temp, flu etc. whilst pregnant is going to be bad for the baby too. “
  • “I like to get it for the kids because they're in school with a bunch of other kids all day, I think stuff tends to be passed around more.”
  • “By vaccinating your children, you help protect elderly people who are at much higher risk. It's a no-brainer.”

Adults eligible for a free flu vaccine should contact their GP, pharmacist or midwife now, for more information. Parents of 2 and 3 year olds should ask their GP surgery, while parents of children in reception and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 are encouraged to give permission for their children to receive the free nasal spray vaccination through their school.

Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details on how to help you and your family to stay well this winter.