The flu vaccine for children is given as a single dose of nasal spray squirted up each nostril.
Not only is it needle-free, the nasal spray works even better than the injected flu vaccine with fewer side effects. It’s quick and painless and will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus.
Why are children being offered the flu vaccine?
Flu can be very unpleasant for children. They have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat lasting up to a week.
Some children develop a very high fever or complications of flu such as bronchitis, pneumonia and painful middle ear infection. They may need hospital treatment, and very occasionally a child may die from flu. For children with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart or lung disease, getting flu can be very serious as they are more at risk of developing serious complications.
Are there children who shouldn’t have the flu vaccine?
There are a few children who should avoid the nasal spray flu vaccine.
It’s not suitable for children who have:
a severely weakened immune system
severe asthma (children with mild or moderate asthma are able to have the flu nasal spray)
active wheezing at the time of vaccination
How does the flu vaccine for children work?
The nasal spray vaccine contains flu viruses that have been weakened to stop them causing flu.
It will help your child build up immunity to flu in a similar way as natural infection (but without the symptoms).
Because the main flu viruses change each year, a new nasal spray vaccine has to be given each year, in the same way as the injectable flu vaccine.
Most children only need a single dose of the nasal spray.
Is the flu vaccine safe for children?
The flu vaccine for children has a very good safety profile. It’s been widely used in the US for more than 10 years and no safety concerns have been raised so far.
What are the side effects?
The nasal spray flu vaccine has very few side effects, the main one being that children may have a slight runny nose for a short time. Other possible side effects include:
feeling slightly unwell
loss of appetite
Rare side effects from the nasal flu vaccination:
As with all vaccines, there’s a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (known medically as anaphylaxis). The overall rate of anaphylaxis after vaccination is around one in 900,000, so slightly more common than one in a million.
Anaphylaxis is very serious but it can be treated with adrenaline. When it happens, it normally does so within a few minutes of the vaccination.
Staff who give vaccinations have all been trained to spot and deal with anaphylactic reactions and children recover completely with treatment.
More Nasal Flu vaccine FAQs – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/child-flu-vaccine-questions-and-answers.aspx
Find NHS information on the children’s nasal flu vaccine here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/ and
Find University of Oxford Vaccine Knowledge Project information here: http://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/nasal-flu-vaccine
Watch the Flu Heroes – Nasal Flu Spray video on YouTube – https://youtu.be/1jHWwm8NQUw
Protecting Your Child Against Flu – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/431953/9312_PHE_Protecting_Child_Flu_DL_10_web.pdf
Leaflets in other languages – http://www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/publications/index.aspx
Vaccine Knowledge – http://www.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vaccine-knowledge-home
Oxford Academic Health Science Network Flu page – http://www.oxfordahsn.org/our-work/clinical-networks/children/childrens-flu-information-and-immunisation-201516/zone-1-parents-and-children/