Flu Season Safety Tips and FAQ

During the fall season, parents typically face a world of sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. Dr. Tina Tan, attending physician in Lurie Children's Division of Infectious Diseases, shares simple steps you can take to keep your family and your community healthy this cold and flu season. “Following the simple steps outlined here can go a long way to keeping your children and your family safe this winter,” shares Dr. Tan.

Preventing the Flu in Children

  1. Wash hands frequently. Whether at school, at home or out in the community, handwashing is an effective way to keep your family healthy. For kids, building handwashing skills can take practice. Remind kids to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after playing outside and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose.
  2. Practice good hygiene. It’s important to teach your children not to spread germs during flu season and the rest of the year. Have them practice coughing and sneezing into an elbow and remind your kids not to share toys, food or drinks with friends or classmates.
  3. Keep your sick child at home. If your kid is experiencing flu-like symptoms, keep them home from school, daycare, or errands. Whether they have a runny nose, fever or severe cough, keeping your child at home will keep any illness from spreading to others.
  4. Keep up with well checks and vaccines. It is critical for kids and teens to keep up with routine check-ups, including vaccinations. If a vaccine is delayed or missed, babies and toddlers have an increased risk of getting sick from a preventable disease. For any questions about an upcoming in-person visit, please contact your physician's office.
  5. Get the flu shot. Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, who are at a higher risk than older children for severe flu-related illness and complications. Dr. Tan recommends getting the flu shot and other vaccines from your child’s pediatrician. If you are coming to Lurie Children’s for a routine checkup or appointment, you can also receive the flu shot during your visit.

Flu Vaccine FAQ

When is flu season?

Even though influenza viruses circulate all year, flu and cold season is normally between October and May with the peak occurring between December and March. 

Does the vaccine prevent the flu? How effective is it?

The effectiveness of the vaccine can vary by year depending on how well the viral strains in the vaccine match those that are circulating, but the influenza vaccine generally lessens the risk of flu by between 40% to 60%. More importantly, if a person does get sick with influenza, the vaccine can help prevent the most serious symptoms as well as complications, hospitalization, and even death.

How long does it take for the flu shot to work?

For any vaccine, it normally takes 10 to 14 days for the body to develop optimal antibody levels.

How long does the flu vaccine last? 

The recommendation is to receive the influenza vaccine in September or October, which should provide protection through the peak of influenza season.

How often do children need a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children 6 months of age and older to receive an influenza vaccine annually.

Is it safe for kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine during the same visit?

Yes, it is safe to get both vaccines at the same time, including the COVID-19 booster shot.

Where can my child get a flu shot?

The best place for your child to get an influenza vaccine is at their pediatrician’s office. It is also offered at clinics, health departments, college health centers, pharmacies, and some school health clinics.

Learn more about the flu vaccine

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