For Providers

Guidance for Children

Children younger than 5 years of age – especially those younger than 2 years old – are at high risk of serious flu-related complications. A flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting flu and spreading it to others. Getting vaccinated can reduce flu illnesses, missed work and school days, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths in children.

Prevention

Vaccination: Children 6 months and older should get an annual influenza (flu) vaccine. For the current flu season, CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV for children aged 6 months and older or LAIV4 for children 2 years of age and older) with no preference expressed for any one vaccine over another.

  • Flu shots (IIV),vaccines given as an injection and made with inactivated (killed) flu virus, are approved for use in people 6 months and older.
  • The nasal spray vaccine (LAIV4)is approved for use in people ages 2 through 49 years. However, there is a precaution against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in people with certain underlying medical conditions. More information about the nasal spray flu vaccine can be found here.

The CDC has more information on the different types of flu vaccines.

There are special vaccination guidelines for children aged 6 months through 8 years.

  • Some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine. Children 6 months through 8 years of age getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season. All children who have previously gotten two doses of vaccine (at any time) only need one dose of vaccine this season. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available.
  • The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose. The first dose "primes" the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.

For more information on prevention of flu in special populations of children, such as those younger than 5 years of age and those with certain neurological conditions, please see the CDC Guidance.

Treatment

Antiviral drugs for children come in the form of pills, liquid or an inhaler. Antiviral drugs fight the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in the body. For treatment, influenza antiviral drugs should ideally be started within two days after becoming sick and taken for five days. If a child gets sick with the flu, antiviral drugs offer a safe and effective treatment option.

Learn more about the different antiviral drugs available for use in children and read the provider memo

Last Modified: June 28, 2019