Why should children have the flu vaccine?
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children causing fever, stuffy nose, dry cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints, and extreme tiredness. This can often last several days. Some children can get a very high fever, sometimes without the usual flu symptoms, and may need to go to hospital for treatment. Serious complications of flu include a painful ear infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
What are the benefits of the vaccine?
Having the vaccine will help protect your child from what can be a very nasty illness. It may also reduce the chance of others in your family getting it from your child. It can help you avoid having to take time off work or other activities because you are ill or need to look after your sick child.
Over the past two years the programme has been tested in a number of areas in school-aged children. In those areas less flu has been detected in all age groups of the population. This suggests that as well as protecting the vaccinated children other people benefitted too.
How will the vaccine be given?
For most children, it is given as a nasal spray.
Who will give my child their flu vaccination?
In general practice, the vaccine is usually given by the practice nurse. If given at school, specially trained nurses will give your child the flu vaccination.
How does the nasal spray work?
The nasal spray contains viruses that have been weakened to prevent them from causing flu but will help your child to build up immunity. When your child comes into contact with the flu virus they will be less likely to get ill.
Are there any side effects of the vaccine?
Serious side effects are uncommon. Children may commonly develop a runny or blocked nose, headache, general tiredness and some loss of appetite. This may last a few days. The vaccine is absorbed quickly in the nose so, even if your child sneezes immediately after having had the spray, there’s no need to worry that it hasn’t worked.
Are there any children who shouldn’t have the nasal vaccine?
Children should not have the nasal vaccine if they:
- are currently wheezy or have been wheezy in the past three days (vaccination should be delayed until at least three days after the wheezing has stopped)
- are severely asthmatic, ie being treated with oral steroids or high dose inhaled steroids
- have a condition that severely weakens their immune system or have someone in their household who needs isolation because of severely impaired immune system (eg bone marrow transplant)
- have severe egg allergy. Most children with egg allergy can be safely immunised with nasal flu vaccine.
However, children with a history of severe egg allergy should seek specialist advice.
Please check with your GP
- are allergic to any other components of the vaccine*
If your child is at high risk from flu due to one or more medical conditions or treatments and can’t have the nasal flu vaccine, they should have the flu vaccine by injection. This will be offered in schools at the same time as the nasal spray.
Children who have been vaccinated with the nasal spray should avoid household contact with people with very severely weakened immune systems for around two weeks following vaccination.