How to care for your young child after their flu vaccination

Emmy Samtani
Emmy Samtani
Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Created on May 22, 2024 · 4 mins read

Even as adults, the mere thought of having a vaccination can make us cringe - so it can be tricky to imagine how our little ones handle it.

But thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to comfort and reassure them after any vaccination – including the flu shot. 

And remember, by vaccinating your baby you’re protecting them. It’s a vital step for their health and safety, and their best defence against influenza this flu season.

Does my baby need the influenza vaccine?

The flu vaccine is recommended each year for babies and children aged 6 months to under 5 years – and it’s free for them too under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Very young children are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza. Their immune systems are naive to the virus and therefore respond more slowly to the infection; the flu can do quite a bit of damage before those little immune systems kick in. 

By getting an influenza vaccine, your child will be less likely to get influenza, and less likely to get the serious conditions that influenza can cause, like severe lung infections (pneumonia) or swelling in the brain (encephalitis).

Immediately after the vaccination

Your number one priority post-vaccination: comfort your little one.

Feeling that tiny pinch (in a strange room with strange people) can be overwhelming – they might be a bit rattled and unsettled. Thankfully, there are a whole lot of things you can do to help reassure your child. 

Calming your baby 

  • Shush: Making gentle and reassuring shushing sounds in your baby’s ear to let them know that everything is okay.
  • Swing: Sway side to side while holding your baby to calm to soothe your little one, or try rocking them gently back and forth in their pram or stroller.
  • Suck: And lastly, the real winner for calming your baby… let your baby suck a dummy, bottle, or even a calming breastfeed.

Calming your young child

  • Cuddles: The reassuring touch and warmth from mum or dad calms the nervous system. And firmly hugging your child chest-to-chest can release hormones that act as a pain-reliever!
  • Distract: A trick as old as time – you can also try distracting your child from any pain or discomfort through toys, singing or other activities. 

By following some of these simple steps, the chances are your child will settle and feel better in no time.


Side effects your child might have

The influenza vaccine is completely safe for young children over six months of age. Generally, there are no major complications, however, it is normal to experience some mild, temporary side effects. Your child might show symptoms like:

  • Fussiness, crying, and restlessness
  • Mild fever
  • Soreness, swelling, or redness where the needle was given 

These reactions will be short-lived and go away after a day or two. If your child doesn’t seem to be getting better, or you are worried about them, you can get help from:

  • your doctor
  • or your nearest emergency department
  • or by calling Health Direct on 1800 022 222

Tips for care at home

  • Soothe and comfort them: Keep up the TLC with plenty of hugs and comforting whispers or soft-spoken reassurances at home. A good dose of cuddles goes a long way, 
  • Ease up on the layers: Keep your child’s layers light and breathable. If they’re feeling a little warm or showing a mild fever, avoid bundling them up in lots of clothing or blankets.
  • Fluids, fluids, and more fluids: Just like adults are recommended extra fluids, kids are too. For babies, this might mean more breast milk or formula. For children over twelve months, opt for glasses of water or milk.
  • Cool compress: Put a cold, damp cloth on the injection site to reduce redness, soreness, or swelling.
  • Watch over them: Monitor your child for a day or two following their vaccination and make note of any unusual side effects or behaviours.


When to worry

Serious side effects are very rare, but they can happen. See your doctor or Immunisation provider, or go to hospital if: 

  • Pain and fever are not relieved by paracetamol.
  • The reactions are bad, not going away or getting worse, or if you are worried at all. 

Right after every vaccine (not just the flu shot), you’ll be advised to stay at the clinic or pharmacy for 15 minutes as any reaction will most likely happen in that window. 

If you’re worried about your baby after their flu shot, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or a medical professional.

Vaccinating your baby is essential

While it’s not fun seeing our little ones upset for a few minutes – vaccinations like the flu shot are so important for their health. Influenza can have serious consequences for young kids.  The best way to protect you and your family this flu season is to make sure everyone gets vaccinated. 


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