Does Your Baby Need a Flu Vaccine?

baby boy flu shot
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If you are a parent of a new baby, you may be wondering how to best protect your baby during cold and flu season. You should follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to keep your little one healthy during flu season. That includes getting your own flu vaccine when you are pregnant, since some immunity will be passed to your baby.

The AAP recommends that all babies six months old or older receive the flu shot at the beginning of flu season (by the end of October). Babies under that age shouldn't get the vaccine, but will have some protection if their mother had a flu shot during pregnancy. 

For the best protection, you should also make sure that all caregivers and family members also receive a flu vaccine. They should be up to date on all vaccines, but especially flu and pertussis (whooping cough), as these are the vaccine-preventable diseases that adults tend to transmit to babies. Read the latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the 2020-2021 flu season.

Your baby can receive a flu vaccine at their well-child check-up or at a separate appointment. You can also visit many walk-in clinics, even at places like your local pharmacy, to get very low-cost or even free flu vaccines for adults and kids ages three and up. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is safe (and recommended) to receive the flu vaccine. Anyone age two or older can have the vaccine given either by injection or by nasal spray. 

Special Circumstances

The AAP has concluded that flu vaccines are safe even for individuals with egg white allergies., as the amount of egg white protein found in the vaccine did not increase any rates of anaphylactic reactions.

The AAP also recommends that parents of infants with special medical conditions, including sickle cell anemia, asthma, HIV, or immune system disorders, take extra care to make sure that all caregivers and family members are fully vaccinated.

Many parents also wonder if it is safe to have their baby receive the flu vaccine if the baby is sick and running a fever. The AAP explains that it is safe to receive the flu vaccine if the baby has a minor illness, such as a cold, with a low-grade fever. If your baby has a "moderate to severe" illness or fever, however, you should talk to your doctor to see if they recommend the flu vaccination at that time.

Flu Prevention

What else can you do to reduce your baby's risk of the flu, especially if they are under six months old and can't get a vaccine yet? You can follow these tips for staying healthy:

  • Make sure that everyone age 6 months and older that your baby interacts with is vaccinated against the flu.
  • Wash your hands frequently with regular soap and water. Anti-bacterial soap is not recommended.
  • Hand-washing with soap and water is always the preferred method of hygiene, but if no other alternatives are available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used for children who are over 24 months old. For infants under the age of two, a wet wipe or even a paper towel soaked with water can be used to clean the hands when necessary.
  • Breastfeed, if possible, as it improves your baby's immunity and can help fight off an influenza infection if it does occur.
  • Keep surfaces and toys that your baby comes into contact with sanitized and cleaned regularly (you can check the AAP's list of recommended and safe cleaners to use on surfaces that will come into contact with your baby).
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Which flu vaccine should my children get this year?. Updated September 8, 2020.