Influenza

When should I immunize my child to protect against influenza?

Your child is recommended to receive his or her influenza immunization, seasonally, as follows:

Dose 1 - Influenza Vaccine 

6 months

During influenza season (generally October to end of March) as soon as your child is at least 6 months of age.

Dose 2 - Influenza Vaccine 

At least 4 weeks after the first dose

A second dose is needed in the same season only for children less than 9 years of age who are getting influenza vaccine for the first time.

Seasonal Dose - Influenza Vaccine 

Repeated annually

See full schedule.

Influenza immunization is offered annually, starting in mid to late October, around Alberta, at AHS influenza immunization clinics, as well as hundreds of pharmacists and physician offices.  Visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/influenza for information on Alberta's influenza immunization program.

Influenza quick facts:

Influenza  is a virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Influenza is easily spread by tiny droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or even talks. The virus can be breathed in, or people can be exposed to it when they touch something that carries the virus (e.g., hands, objects) and then touch their eyes or nose.

Influenza can lead to pneumonia, and even death.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the influenza virus and are more likely to be hospitalized.

Influenza season – the time when we’re all at greatest risk of contracted the virus – generally occurs between November and April.

Anyone six months of age and older who lives, works, or goes to school in Alberta is recommended and eligible to receive their influenza immunization, every season, free of charge.

What is the difference between influenza, the common cold and the stomach "flu"?

  Seasonal Influenza Common Cold Stomach “Flu”

Caused by

Influenza A or Influenza B viruses Many different kinds of viruses such as rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, etc. NOT CAUSED BY INFLUENZA VIRUS Norovirus (or Norwalk-like viruses) is the most common; however, there are many causes of stomach upset. NOT CAUSED BY INFLUENZA VIRUS

Prevention

Annual influenza immunization protects against the strains of influenza virus circulating that season Cannot be prevented by immunization Cannot be prevented by immunization

Involves whole body

Usually Never Never

Symptoms appear quickly

Yes No. Symptoms appear gradually Yes

Headache

Yes, and can be severe Rarely Sometimes

Chills, aches, pain

Yes, and often severe Rarely Common

Extreme tiredness

Yes, and may last two to three weeks or more Rarely Sometimes

Fever

Yes. High fever, beginning suddenly and lasting three to four days, is common Sometimes Rarely

Cough

Usually Sometimes Rarely

Download a copy of this chart here.

What can happen to my child if he or she gets influenza?

Your baby or child is at particularly high risk of getting seriously ill from influenza. Babies and young children are more likely to be hospitalized due to influenza, and more likely to suffer difficulty breathing and even pneumonia. Influenza can also cause severe tiredness in your child, a lack of appetite, a cough, seizures or convulsions.

About the immunization:

Influenza can be prevented through immunization.

The vaccine that protects your child against influenza is often called the “annual influenza immunization”, the
“seasonal influenza immunization”, the “flu shot”or “nasal spray”.

When your child gets the influenza vaccine, your child’s immune system will be prompted to build antibodies that protect – or “arm” – your child against influenza. 

Each year, new types – or strains – of seasonal influenza virus come to our communities. Without immunization each and every influenza season, your child is at risk for influenza.

Safety

Your child cannot get influenza, or any other diseases, from the influenza vaccine.

This vaccine is safe, and provides your child with protection against a disease that is not safe.

The risk that influenza poses to your child’s health is far greater than any risk related to immunizing your child against influenza.

Learn more about General Vaccine Safety here.

Safety checks before immunization

Your nurse will talk to you about your child’s health history before giving your child any vaccines. This will include questions about any medicines your child is taking, health conditions your child has or is experiencing, as well as any allergies your child may have. Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.      

When your nurse talks to you about your child’s health history, it is important that you inform your nurse if your child:

  • is sick or has a fever greater than 38.5 C (101.3 F)
  • has allergies to any part of the vaccine
  • is allergic to any foods, drugs, bee stings, etc.
  • has a weakened immune system (immune compromised)
  • has had an allergic reaction (such as anaphylaxis) or other severe or unusual reaction to this or other vaccines in the past

Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.      

PLEASE NOTE: Your child should NOT get the vaccine if he/she has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this vaccine in the past.

What might my child experience after immunization?

Reactions to the vaccine are usually mild, go away within a few days, and may include:

  • redness, swelling, and/or discomfort where the needle was given (injection)
  • runny/stuffy nose or a cough (nasal spray)
  • feeling tired or irritable
  • eadache or body aches
  • fever
  • decreased appetite, nausea, or vomiting

How can I manage my child’s symptoms after immunization?

No matter your child’s age, it is normal for him or her to experience some common, mild and temporary symptoms after immunization. 

Here are a few tips to manage these mild symptoms:

  • Fever. If you need medicine for fever or pain, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully. If you are not sure whether your child’s fever is related to the immunization, dial 811 for Health Link or talk to your doctor or pharmacist, before giving your child medicine. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 19 years of age. Aspirin increases the risk of a rare but serious disease called Reye Syndrome.
  • Swelling or redness around injection point. Put a cool moist cloth on the area for about 10 to 20 minutes. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you need medicine to help relieve the discomfort. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully.
  • Fretfulness and poor appetite. Sometimes a baby may be fretful, drowsy and refuse to eat for a few hours after immunization. Plan to relax in a quiet environment at home after immunization. Hold and cuddle your child when needed, and remember to keep the temperature at a comfortable level – your child is more likely to be fretful if he or she gets too warm.
  • Headache. If you need medicine for headache, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully.

Severe allergic reactions after immunization are rare, occurring at an estimated annual rate of only one to ten per one million doses of vaccine administered, and can be treated. Our nurses will ask that you stay with your child, in the immunization clinic, for at least 15 minutes after your child receives his or her immunizations. For the dose that your child receives in school, the nurse will also require your child to stay for at least 15 minutes after his or her immunization. This will allow the nurse to identify and treat any immediate allergic reaction that could occur.

If you are concerned about symptoms your child is experiencing after immunization, dial 811 for Health Link to speak to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your child is experiencing severe shortness of breath, call 911.