The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that everyone older than 6 months get a flu shot for the 2018-19 season as soon as it is available, preferably before the end of October.
The policy statement, published in the October issue of Pediatrics, states that the inactivated influenza vaccine, which is given as a shot, is best. Children with egg allergy, even severe allergy, can take the shot safely.
The live attenuated vaccine, which is sprayed into the nose, has been ineffective in previous years, and the academy is recommending against its use except in cases in which the child refuses the shot. The live vaccine cannot be given to children under 2.
Children 9 and older need only one dose. Those 6 months through 8 years may need two shots, at least four weeks apart.
It is especially important to vaccinate children with medical conditions that increase the risk of complications from the flu, including asthma, diabetes and sickle cell disease.
Pregnant women can take the vaccine at any time during pregnancy, and those who did not receive it during pregnancy should take it as soon as possible afterward. Vaccination is safe during breast-feeding for both mother and child.
Influenza can be fatal: 180 children died from the flu during the 2017-18 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 80 percent of those children were unvaccinated.
“When we look at kids with the flu who died,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, the chairwoman of the A.A.P.’s committee on infectious disease, “half of them have no underlying health conditions. This is not a simple cold. It’s a significant cause of hospitalization and death.”