FLU VACCINATION FOR
An annual flu vaccine is recommended for all adolescents. Ideally, teens should be vaccinated with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season.
By getting adolescents their recommended flu vaccine each year, we can help prevent them from suffering from flu-related illness and deaths while also helping to stop the spread of flu to their families and communities.
Today’s teens are extremely active. Whether they are busy with academic endeavors and part-time employment, or involved in athletics and community service, today’s teens have an abundance of social contacts. This not only increases their risk of exposure to flu, but also increases the possibility of teens spreading flu viruses throughout their communities.
During bad flu seasons, approximately 30 percent of school-aged children fall ill with flu, and as a result, children miss approximately 38 million days of school due to flu each year in the U.S.`1 These kinds of absences can make it difficult for teens to thrive academically, and can keep them from being active in this game we call life.
Flu severity varies each season, but each year millions of adolescents get sick, thousands are hospitalized and some even die from flu.
Even otherwise healthy teens can fall victim to flu and find themselves hospitalized with flu complications that can lead to lifelong health issues.
While flu vaccination rates are highest among young children, rates tend to decline the older children get. Perhaps it’s because parents don’t consider adolescents as fragile or vulnerable as younger children. Or perhaps it’s because it can be challenging to find the time to get a busy teen in for a flu vaccine. However, adolescents are still very vulnerable to flu and its complications, and parents should prioritize annual flu vaccines for their teens. Getting teens their recommended flu vaccine each year helps protect them from the potentially devastating impact of flu. It also demonstrates the importance of preventive health - modeling a behavior that we hope teens will continue into their adult lives.
FACT: Less than 60% of children under the age of 17 get an annual flu vaccination. However, a study suggests that if we could raise flu vaccination rates among children and adolescents to 80%, we would see a 91% reduction of flu across all populations.
There are many reasons to get teens vaccinated for flu:
A 2017 study shows that flu vaccination significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from influenza. Among healthy children, flu vaccination reduces risk of death from influenza by 65%. Among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, flu vaccination reduces risk of death from influenza by 51%.
Getting children vaccinated helps ensure they don’t spread flu to others who are vulnerable to serious flu illness, like infant siblings too young to be vaccinated, immunocompromised classmates, older family members or people with certain chronic health conditions.
- High and prolonged fever (102 degrees or above for more than 72 hours)
- Changes in mental condition, such as not waking up or not interacting; being so moody that the child does not want to be held; or seizures
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Drop in body temperature (hypothermia)
- Difficulty breathing
- Not able to take in the usual amount of fluids
- Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever or worse cough
- Worsening of underlying medical complications (for example, heart or lung disease, diabetes)
There are two different types of vaccines that are recommended for adolescents:
Flu shots (also referred to as inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV), are administered as an injection made with inactivated (killed) flu virus and are approved for use in children 6 months and older.
A nasal spray vaccine (also referred to as live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is approved for use in children age 2 through 17, with the exception of children who have certain underlying medical conditions such as asthma. Learn more about precautions against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine here.
Children with asthma are at high risk of developing serious flu complications, even if their asthma is mild or their symptoms are well-controlled by medication. This is because people with asthma have swollen and sensitive airways, and flu can further inflame the lungs and airways which can trigger asthma attacks and worsen asthma symptoms. It also can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. In fact, children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with flu than those who do not have asthma. Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with flu.
Flu shots have been deemed safe for children with asthma; however, parents are cautioned against using the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in children with certain underlying medical conditions, including asthma.
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Page last reviewed: September 2021.