Where to get the flu vaccine

6 months to 4 years old

5-17 years old

The virus in kids

Even healthy children can become seriously ill with the flu.

Young children, especially those under 5 years old, have a higher risk of serious illness, and even death, from the flu. This is partly because their immune systems are still developing.

Children in schools and in child care are at risk for getting and spreading the flu, as they have close contact with one another during the day. Other factors can increase the risk of serious illness and even death from the flu, including:

  • underlying medical conditions
  • weakened immune systems
  • long-term treatment with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®)

Who should get the flu vaccine

All kids 6 months old and older should get the flu vaccine every year, unless there is a medical reason not to. Babies under 6 months old are too young to get the flu shot, but they'll get some protection if their parent got the flu shot while they were pregnant.

Pregnancy and newborns

If you are pregnant, you can safely get the flu shot at any time during your pregnancy.

If you are breastfeeding you can safely get the flu shot.

During pregnancy, the flu shot protects you and your unborn baby. Plus, your baby stays protected for several months after they're born – which is when there is a high risk for flu complications, but they're still too young to get the shot.

When you're pregnant, changes in your immune system make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu, which means – if you catch the flu – you have a greater risk of:

  • getting complications, such as pneumonia – especially in your second or third trimester
  • being hospitalized, or even dying
  • premature labour and delivery
  • fever, which can lead to birth defects in your child

Flu symptoms in kids

Kids can have different flu symptoms than adults, such as earaches or stomach problems.

Your child may also get:

  • fever (temperature over 39.5°C), which could lead to febrile seizures (convulsions)
  • extreme tiredness, sore throat
  • cough
  • headache and body aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Newborns and babies may have a high fever that can't be explained, but not have any other signs of illness.

If your child’s symptoms improve and then suddenly become worse, get medical help right away by calling 911 or take your child to the nearest hospital emergency department.

You should also seek immediate medical attention if your child experiences:

  • fast or difficult breathing
  • bluish or dark-coloured lips or skin
  • drowsiness to the point where you can't wake them up easily
  • severe crankiness or not wanting to be held
  • dehydration or not drinking enough fluids and not going to the bathroom regularly

Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu, and it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. You may need a COVID-19 test to help confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Find a COVID-19 testing location and learn what to expect during your test.

Except for going to get a test, you should stay home and self-isolate for 14 days or until you get your results.

Updated: September 08, 2021
Published: October 20, 2014