Influenza Vaccine

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract.

Immunization Schedule

These groups, who are at increased risk of flu-related complications, should receive the flu shot every year:

  • all children between 6 months and 18 years old, especially those 6 to 59 months old
  • any child or adult with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and HIV/AIDS
  • children and teens on long-term aspirin therapy
  • anyone age 50 and older
  • women who will be pregnant during the flu season
  • anyone who lives or works with infants (especially those under 6 months old)
  • residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
  • health care personnel who have direct contact with patients
  • out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of anyone in any of these high-risk groups

In the past, there have been times when there were vaccine shortages and delays. So talk with your doctor about availability.

For kids younger than 9 who are getting a flu shot for the first time, it's given in two separate shots a month apart. It can take about 2 weeks after the shot is given for the body to build up protection to the flu.

Another non-shot option called the nasal mist vaccine came on the market in 2003 and is now approved for use in healthy 2- to 49-year-olds. But this nasal mist isn't for everyone, and can't be used by high-risk children and adults or pregnant women.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

The flu vaccine reduces the average person's chances of catching the flu by up to 80% during the season. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the virus.

The shot usually becomes available between September and mid-November. Although you can get a flu shot well into flu season, it's best to try to get it earlier rather than later, if your doctor thinks it's necessary. However, even as late as January there are still 2 to 3 months left in the flu season, so it's still a good idea to get protection.

Even if you or your child got the vaccine last year, that won't protect you from getting the flu this year, because the protection wears off and flu viruses constantly change. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.

Possible Risks

Given as one injection in the upper arm, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause someone to get the flu, but will cause the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus. Getting a shot of the killed virus offers protection against that particular type of live flu virus if someone comes into contact with it.

Some of the most common side effects from the flu shot are soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection. A low-grade fever and aches are also possible. Because the nasal spray flu vaccine is made from live viruses, it may cause mild flu-like symptoms, including runny nose, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever. Very rarely, the flu vaccine can cause serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

People who should not get the flu shot include:

  • infants under 6 months old
  • anyone who's severely allergic to eggs and egg products because the ingredients for flu shots are grown inside eggs. Tell the doctor if your child is allergic before he or she gets a flu shot.
  • anyone who's ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
  • anyone who's had Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome (GBS, a rare medical condition that affects the nerves) within 6 weeks of getting a flu shot
  • anyone with a fever

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

Pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor about the appropriate dose. Some doctors recommend a dose just before the immunization. A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad also may help minimize soreness. Moving or using the limb that has received the injection often reduces the soreness as well.

When to Call the Doctor

  • if you aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided
  • if there are problems after the immunization


Polio is a viral infection that can result in permanent paralysis.

Immunization Schedule

The inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is usually given at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years.

Until recently, the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) was given in the United States. Updated recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now call for IPV injections. This change eliminates the previous small risk of developing polio after receiving the live oral polio vaccine.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

Protection against polio occurs in more than 95% of children immunized.

Possible Risks

Side effects include fever and redness or soreness at the site of injection.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

  • IPV should not be given to kids with severe allergy to neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B.

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

IPV may cause mild fever, and soreness and redness at the site of the injection for several days. Depending on the age of your child, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication, and to find out the appropriate dose.

When to Call the Doctor

  • if you aren't sure whether the vaccine should be postponed or avoided
  • if moderate or severe adverse reactions occur after the immunization

Hib Vaccine

Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria were the leading cause of meningitis in children until the Hib vaccine became available.

Immunization Schedule

The Hib vaccine is given by injection at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months (however, some of the Hib vaccines do not require a dose at 6 months). A booster dose is given at 12 to 15 months.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

Long-term protection from Haemophilus influenzae type b occurs in more than 90% of infants receiving three doses of the vaccine. Those immunized have protection against Hib meningitis, pneumonia, pericarditis (an infection of the membrane covering the heart), and infections of the blood, bones, and joints caused by the bacteria.

Possible Risks

Minor problems, such as redness, swelling, or tenderness where the shot was given, may occur.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

  • if your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
  • if severe allergic reaction occurs after an injection of the Hib vaccine, further Hib immunizations may not be given to your child

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

The vaccine may cause mild soreness and redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on the age of your child, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication, and to find out the appropriate dose.

When to Call the Doctor

  • if you aren't sure whether the vaccine should be postponed or avoided
  • if moderate or serious adverse reactions appear after the Hib injection

Mumps part 2


The mumps virus is contagious and spreads in tiny drops of fluid from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected. It can be passed to others through sneezing, coughing, or even laughing. The virus can also spread to other people through direct contact, such as picking up tissues or using drinking glasses that have been used by the infected person.

People who have mumps are most contagious from 2 days before symptoms begin to 6 days after they end. The virus can also spread from people who are infected but have no symptoms.


Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine can be given alone or as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization, which is usually given to children at 12 to 15 months of age. A second dose of MMR is generally given at 4 to 6 years of age. As is the case with all immunization schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances.

If they haven't already received them, students who are attending colleges and other post-high school institutions should be sure they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine.

During a measles outbreak, your doctor may recommend additional shots of the vaccine, if your child is 1 to 4 years old. Your doctor will have the most current information.


The incubation period for mumps can be 12 to 25 days, but the average is 16 to 18 days.


Children usually recover from mumps in about 10 to 12 days. It takes about 1 week for the swelling to disappear in each parotid gland, but both glands don't usually swell at the same time.