Insights on Influenza Blog
Mission: To save lives and reduce hospitalizations by protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.
FLU VACCINATION FOR

Adolescents

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.

Impact of Flu On Teens 

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.

Madi was a healthy 12-year-old athlete before she spent a total of 93 days in the hospital recovering from her near-death experience with flu.

Read Madi's Story 

30% of school-aged children fall ill with flu

Dangers of Flu in Teens

Flu severity varies each season, but each year millions of adolescents get sick, thousands are hospitalized and some even die from flu.

Luke eventually recovered from flu after 12 days in a coma and 30 days in the hospital.

Read Luke's Story

HOSPITALIZATION

Even otherwise healthy teens can fall victim to flu and find themselves hospitalized with flu complications that can lead to lifelong health issues. 

DEATH

On average, over 100 children under the age of 18 die from the flu and its complications every year in the U.S. To date, close to 2,000 children have lost their lives to flu since 2004;2 80% were not vaccinated and approximately half were otherwise healthy.3

Will was a college athlete whose flu illness progressed to diabetic ketoacidosis, causing him to lose his life in less than three days.

Read Will's Story


Benefits of Flu Vaccination in Children

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:

Flu vaccination reduces risk of flu illnesses.

In seasons when the vaccine viruses is well matched to circulating strains, flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40-60 percent.


 

Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

A 2014 study shows that flu vaccine can reduce a child’s risk of admission into a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74%.


 

Flu vaccination can save your child’s life.

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%.


 

Flu vaccination reduces the spread of flu.

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.

Reduce the Spread of Influenza

To read the stories of children who have been hospitalized or died from flu, visit our Story Gallery.

Flu Warning Signs

Emergency Warning Signs

Flu can present differently in children, so it’s important to know when to seek medical attention for a child who is suffering with flu. If a child has any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

  • 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)

The flu progressed to pneumonia and Austin was also found to have MRSA. It was more than his body could fight.

Read Austin's Story

Which flu vaccines are recommended for adolescents?

There are two different types of vaccines that are recommended for adolescents:

Flu Shot Vaccine

6 months to 17 years of age and older:

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.

Flu Nasal Mist Vaccine

Image source: CDC, Douglas Jordan, M.A., image provider.

2 to 17 years of age 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. 


 

Special Considerations:

Children with Egg Allergy
Most flu shots and the nasal spray flu vaccine are manufactured using egg-based technology.  Because of this, they contain a small amount of egg proteins, such as ovalbumin. While this may sound concerning for children with egg allergies, an abundance of research has been conducted on the safety of flu vaccines in egg-allergic and non-egg-allergic patients. These studies consistently show that severe allergic reactions in people with egg allergies are unlikely and that individuals with a history of egg allergy of any severity can receive any licensed, recommended, and age-appropriate influenza vaccine. For those individuals who have a history of severe allergic reaction to egg (i.e., any symptom other than hives) the CDC does suggest that the patient be vaccinated in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (such as a hospital, clinic, health department or physician's office), under the supervision of a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions. For more information about flu vaccination in persons with a history of egg allergy, visit the CDC’s website here.
Children with Asthma

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.


 

Stay In The Game Materials from Families Fighting Flu

Our Stay in the Game campaign highlights the role vaccination can play in keeping kids healthy so that they can remain actively engaged in their activities. 

View Stay In the game materials

Visit these other pages to learn more:

Page last reviewed: July 2020. 

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