The Flu Vaccine

The flu (influenza) vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect your child from the influenza virus.


What is the flu?

The flu is a highly infectious and acute respiratory (breathing) illness that is caused by the influenza virus. It affects people of all ages and commonly occurs during the winter months.

Although anyone can get the flu, children living with a chronic medical condition are considered high-risk as they are particularly vulnerable to a severe reaction to the virus (see below).


What is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine encourages your child’s body to produce antibodies against the influenza virus. Antibodies are proteins produced by your body to destroy disease and infection. They protect your child from becoming ill if they are infected with the virus.

The influenza virus strain can change from year to year, so it is important to vaccinate your child against the virus every year. The flu virus strains vaccinated against each year are based on doctors and scientists’ best estimates of the active flu viruses going around that season. Unfortunately, this means that the flu vaccine cannot provide 100% protection against all possible flu illness in any given year.

However, vaccination against the flu virus significantly reduces the chance of serious or life-threatening illness even if you pick up a strain not specifically vaccinated against in that year.

More information about flu virus strains circulating this season.

At Briarhill Family Practice, we recommend you vaccinate your child against the flu virus between September and October each year for maximum protection. The flu vaccine is given in one single injection, usually in the upper arm.


Who should get the vaccine?

Although anyone can get the flu, children living with a chronic medical condition are considered high-risk as they are particularly vulnerable to a severe reaction to the virus. 

As such the HSE strongly recommends the flu vaccine for:

Children aged six months and older with a long-term health condition such as: 

  • Chronic heart disease (this includes anyone who has a history of having a "heart attack" or unstable angina)

  • Chronic liver disease 

  • Chronic renal failure 

  • Chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia

  • Chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Down syndrome

  • Haemoglobinopathies

  • Morbid obesity i.e. body mass index over 40

  • Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (these include anyone on treatment for cancer)

Children aged six months and older: 

  • with any condition that can affect lung function especially those attending special schools/day centres with cerebral palsy or intellectual disability

  • on long-term aspirin therapy (because of the risk of Reyes syndrome)


Flu Symptoms

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. The flu comes on quite suddenly with fever and muscle aches and pains. A cold is a much less severe illness than the flu, the symptoms are gradual and include a sore throat and a blocked or a runny nose.  The HSE have provided the following chart to help you to distinguish between cold and flu symptoms.


Top Tips for Dealing with the Flu

Most children recover from the flu within a week and without seeking medical care. However, if your child experiences severe symptoms or belongs to any of the high-risk groups listed above, you should contact reception and make an appointment to see your Doctor.

Top Tips for Helping Your Child with Flu

  • Keep your child home for up to 7 days or until they fully recover – do not bring them to school while ill as this will likely spread infection.

  • Rest in bed as much as possible.

  • Take medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the symptoms – your pharmacist should be able to recommend appropriate medication for your child.

  • Give them plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated.

  • Discourage any visitors.

If you have taken the necessary care steps outlined above and your child starts to feel worse, you may need more advice from your family’s Doctor. Please contact reception to book an appointment to see your Doctor.


What are the side-effects of the Flu Vaccine?

Like most vaccines, you may experience some mild side-effects including:

  • a mild fever,

  • redness, itching, pain, hardness and swelling around the site of injection,

  • muscle ache, headache, and

  • feeling tired.

Aside from an extremely small risk of sever allergic reaction, there are no serious side-effects associated with the flu vaccine.

Given the time of year that the flu vaccine is recommended (September/October), it is not unusual for people to experience some "cold" type symptoms in the weeks following the flu vaccination. Such instances are unfortunate but coincidental and not related to receipt of the flu vaccine – the flu vaccine does not contain any active virus and cannot cause the flu.


How much does it cost?

The flu vaccine and its administration are free for children in high-risk groups who are covered under the Medical/GP Visit Card Schemes. 

For private patients/children older than six years who are in high-risk groups, the flu vaccine itself is free, but vaccination incurs an administration fee of €30. 

Other patients who are not in high-risk groups may still elect to have the flu vaccination; this will incur a €20 charge for the vaccine and the additional €30 administration fee.

Please contact reception to make your appointment for the flu vaccination.


Useful Links

HSE – Patient information leaflet for the flu vaccine

HSE – Patient information leaflet for pregnant women and the flu Vaccine

HSE – FAQs on the flu vaccine


Content developed from HSE is adapted for
Briarhill Family Practice by Briarhill Family Practice.

Paul Cotter

Bad Dog, 16 Seapoint, Barna, Galway