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Protecting Against Influenza (Flu): Advice for Caregivers of Children Less Than 6 Months Old


Research has shown that children less than 5 years of age are at high risk of serious flu-related complications. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 children less than 5 years old are hospitalized due to flu each year in the U.S. Many more have to go to a doctor, an urgent care center, or the emergency room because of flu.

Complications from the flu can include pneumonia (an illness where the lungs get infected and inflamed), dehydration (when a child is too sick to drink enough fluids and its body loses too much water), worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma, encephalopathy (inflammation of the brain), and sinus problems and ear infections. In rare cases, complications from the flu can lead to death.

Because children are at increased risk of getting severe illness from flu, CDC recommends that all children 6 months up to their 5th birthday get a flu vaccine every fall or winter. (Children under 9 getting a flu vaccine for the first time need two doses of vaccine in the first year.)

Children Younger Than 6 Months at Higher Risk

However, flu vaccine is not approved for use in children less than 6 months. Also, influenza antiviral drugs (prescription drugs used to treat and prevent flu) are not approved for use in children younger than 1 year. Because children younger than 6 months cannot get a vaccine or antiviral drugs, but are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, safeguarding them from influenza is especially important. This fact sheet provides advice to help caregivers (for example, parents, teachers, babysitters, nannies) protect children less than 6 months from the flu.

Advice for Caregivers of Children Less Than 2 Years Old

1.) Take Time to Get a Vaccine

2.) Take Everyday Preventive Steps

Certain everyday preventive steps like frequent hand washing and covering your cough can help keep germs from spreading.

Protect yourself and your infant by following these steps routinely:

3.) Take Antiviral Drugs if Your Doctor Says You Need Them

Advice for Caregivers Who Get the Flu

If you live with or care for an infant less than 6 months of age, follow the precautions below to help prevent the spread of illness to your infant.

1.) Remember How the Flu Spreads

The main way that flu spreads in respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (generally 3 or more feet) through the air and infect someone nearby.

2.) Follow These Steps

If you get flu-like symptoms which can include a fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, or body aches, follow the precautions below:

3.) Be Watchful

Observe your infant closely for symptoms of respiratory illness. If your child develops a fever (100°F or higher under the arm, 101°F orally, or 102°F rectally), respiratory symptoms, or is less responsive than normal, contact your child’s doctor.

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