Mother and Baby

The Flu Vaccine For Toddlers – Stay Well This Winter

Public Health England (PHE) has launched its annual flu vaccine drive.

This year the programme is being extended to children in school years 1 and 2, and aims to help 3 million children between the ages of 2 and 6.

Watch PHE's fun video explaining more about the flu vaccine above. 

The nasal spray form of vaccination has fewer side effects and is definitely a much nicer way for a toddler to receive the vaccination – no needles and screaming fits in the doctor’s office.

But while the flu vaccine has been designed to be extremely safe and there are numerous benefits to your toddler having it, some experts have pointed out effects that can be worrying.


The pros

Ultimately, the flu vaccine hugely lessens the chances of your toddler catching flu if he comes into contact with it – and helps stop the spread of it.

‘The vaccine nasal spray contains live, but inactivate, viruses and is given as a single squirt up each nostril,’ says GP Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘Your child can breathe normally while the vaccine is being given – he won’t need to inhale or sniff. If your little one hasn’t previously had the flu vaccine, he may need a second dose after four weeks.’

‘The vaccine nasal spray contains live, but inactivate, viruses and is given as a single squirt up each nostril'

The symptoms of flu aren’t nice (your little one can expect a fever, chills, aching muscles, headaches, a stuffy nose, dry cough and a sore throat), but there can be some nasty complications, too. Bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections can happen about a bad bout of flu, sometimes requiring hospital treatment.

And in some serious cases, both children and adults have died from side effects from flu – the vaccine is expected to prevent at least 2,000 deaths and lead to 11,000 fewer hospitalisations in the long run.


The cons

While NHS Choices says the vaccine is expected to ultimately save lives, a review titled Cochrane Review on Vaccines for Preventing Influenza in Healthy Children, found that while the vaccination can protect your child from flu, there isn't conclusive evidence that vaccinations reduce hospitalisations and deaths in children. The study, which looked at findings from 75 studies, showed 'evidence of considerable reporting bias,' the lead author Tom Jefferson, told The Guardian.

What is clear, is that the nasal spray could prompt some mild side effects – the most common reaction being a runny nose.

‘As the vaccine is absorbed very quickly through the nose lining, it will still work even if your child has a runny nose, sneezes or blows their nose straight after being vaccinated,’ says Sarah. ‘A few children may have a temperature, headache or feel slightly unwell, but this is minor compared with full blown flu.’


If your little one displays any signs of these side effects, try not to worry as they should clear up naturally within a few days.

How to treat side effects of the flu vaccine

‘For children who develop nasal congestion, a nasal spray such as Stérimar could be used to gently cleanse the nose from the day after vaccination – but check with your doctor or pharmacist first,’ says Sarah.

If he has a fever, you can give your tot infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring down his temperature and if you’re worried, trust your instincts and speak to your GP for advice or call NHS 111.

Very rarely, children experience allergic reactions (known medically as anaphylaxis) to the vaccine – but the chance of this happening is around one in 900,000. If this does happen, it will be obvious within a few minutes of the vaccination being administered and every nurse or GP is trained to spot the symptoms and deal with it immediately – usually with a shot of adrenaline.

There are a few children who should avoid the nasal spray vaccine, but may be advised to have the injectable vaccination instead. If your little one has severe asthma, an egg allergy or a severely weakened immune system then the nasal spray isn’t recommended. You can read more about this from the NHS UK.

How to stay well this winter

  • Make sure you get your flu jab.
  • Keep yourself warm. Heat your home to least 18 degrees C or (65f) if you can.
  • If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious.
  • Look out for other people before it gets more serious

Will you be taking your toddler for the flu vaccine? Let us know in the comments box below.


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