Children's flu vaccine side effects

The flu vaccine for children is very safe, but like all vaccines, some children may experience side effects. The side effects linked with the flu nasal spray vaccine are almost always mild and short-lived.

Common side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine

The nasal spray flu vaccine has very few side effects, the main one being that children may have a slight runny nose for a short time. Other possible side effects include:

  • high temperature
  • headache
  • feeling slightly unwell
  • loss of appetite

Rare side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine

As with all vaccines, there’s a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (known medically as anaphylaxis). The overall rate of anaphylaxis after vaccination is around one in 900,000 (so slightly more common than one in a million).

Anaphylaxis is very serious but it can be treated with adrenaline. When it happens, it does so within a few minutes of the vaccination. Staff who give vaccinations have all been trained to spot and deal with anaphylactic reactions and children recover completely with treatment.

What to do if your child has a side effect from the flu nasal spray vaccine

If your child has a runny nose after their flu vaccination, simply wipe their nose with a tissue and then discard it. Remember, catch it, bin it, kill it.

If your child develops a fever after their flu vaccination, keep them cool by:

  • making sure they don't have too many layers of clothes or blankets on
  • giving them cool drinks

You could also give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce their fever. Read more about medicines for children.

If you're worried about your child, trust your instincts and speak to your doctor or call NHS 111.

Call the doctor immediately if, at any time, your child:

  • has a temperature of 39 degrees C or above, or
  • has a fit

Read more about vaccine side effects in babies

This Public Health England leaflet (PDF, 64.4kb) tells you more about the common vaccination reactions that may happen in babies and young children up to five years of age and how to treat them. 

How to report a suspected vaccine side effect

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from a vaccine. It's run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and it's a good way to of monitoring a vaccine's safety.

Find out how to report a vaccine side effect.

Page last reviewed: 06/08/2013

Next review due: 06/08/2015


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The 15 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Karlos F said on 14 September 2014

Dear Kathryn at NHS Choices,

Your statement that "the vast majority of children won’t have any problems at all" is factually incorrect.

The manufacturers information on side effects can be found here which states that side effects such as runny or stuffed nose, reduced appetite, weakness and headache are very common. Fever and muscle aches are classed as common symptoms.

I am sure that the company wants to show their product in the best possible light but they are required to state this information by law.

Readers should check for themselves as the opinion here is clearly biased.

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vjp1975 said on 14 December 2013

Wish I had researched the nasal flu vaccine before subjecting my 4 year old daughter to this. She had it yesterday a-noon, woke at 4am this morning vomiting which continued until 8am. Shes very unwell, high temp and yellow sticky stuff coming out of her eye and nose. She was absolutely fine before hand and hadn't had a cold this term. I am very disappointed with the NHS. Had I known this reaction was a possibility there's no way I would have agreed to it. My 6 year old son had the injection and apart from a sore arm he's fine.
We've missed swimming lesson, xmas party, haircut and xmas tree buying this weekend as a result of it. She's spent the entire day lying on the sofa watching cbeebies. :-(

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happilymarried26 said on 13 December 2013

Under no circumstances would I let any child of mine have this vaccine again.

Our son had it in October and has been constantly ill ever since with bad colds, terrible cough like he was coughing his lungs up and generally unwell all the time.

We just want our happy little guy back.

We did a survey on our Facebook business page (over 5000 people) and out of all those people nearly 3500 people have had ill children since having the flu vaccine.

This has been researched in America?
How long has it been researched for in the UK as not everyone in the US can afford to go to the doctor so I feel our children are being used a guinea pigs here.

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redcat10 said on 06 December 2013

My 3year old had the nasal flu spray last night at 630pm, now 6 hours later he's woken up white as a sheet, feeling hot and very sickly. I was told by the nurse there were no side effects for this spray. I've just read some comments here and he could be in for a poorly few days. Great! I've got a 10 week old baby, and a 18 month old at home too. I would've liked more information before agreeing to my little boy having it.

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Caldy1972 said on 03 December 2013

Whatever you do, do not subject your child to this nasal spray. My little girl has been ill for nearly a week now with a runny nose, sore throat and a severe cough. The cough is particularly bad at night and has kept the whole house awake. I am gutted that I have basically made her this ill in a futile attempt to prevent her from being ill. How ironic.

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tracievr6 said on 29 November 2013

My daughter had the nasal spray done last Thursday and initially was fine. Come Monday she was vomiting everywhere, a high temp of 40.2, no appetite, hardly passing urine or stools and ended up being hospitalised due to being dehydrated! Never again will I allow her or anyone close to me to have this spray again after seeing how much she has suffered!

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 14 November 2013

Dear Morjo, louloumoore, Crowe89, Ami1980, Darcdiamond999 and laurashep

Sorry to hear your children were unwell after receiving the vaccine. As with all vaccines, a few children will have side effects. However, when deciding whether to have the vaccination it’s important to remember that the nasal spray is very safe and effective and the vast majority of children won’t have any problems at all.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

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morjo said on 08 November 2013

My 5 yr old daughter had nasal vaccine on Wednesday 6th Nov at school, she woke up Thursday morning with fever, headache and vomiting, GP confirmed it was a reaction,poor thing is miserable. GP said you were more likely to get a reaction from nasal spray due to type of vaccine it is. I support the flu vaccine to children, but after this experience will not get nasal spray again. My 2yr old had no reaction at all,although most of it dribbled back out his nose! My daughter still has temperature and headache.

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louloumoore said on 06 November 2013

My 3year old had vaccine on Saturday, very irritable on Monday &Tuesday then last night ( Tuesday )she woke up vomitting 4times & has been very unwell, weak, runny nose,high temperature today,loss of appetite too.
I wonder if she was due to get a virus & its just a coincidence. Shame as she had been in great health the lat 4-5months!

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Liset said on 28 October 2013

My 2 year old daughter had it, no problems at all following it. No Temp or anything. They cannot develop flu because of the way it is designed, if its not just side effects chances are they were already coming down with something.

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crowe89 said on 18 October 2013

My daughter had the nasal spray on 17th October at 4pm She woke at 2am with vomitting and vomited every couple of hours since then, her temp seemed fine and she was fine in her self.
I am hoping she will feel better when she wakes up shortly.
She had this last winter through general illness, if this continues like that did i would say there is no point in getting the nasal spray in the first place.

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Ami1980 said on 16 October 2013

My daughter had her nasal flu vaccine yes ok she has a sore throat now.but no sore bad arm no negative experience and I would rather poorly with the side effects than flu itself.flu could be really harmful in someone with rough lungs hopefully the throat will not last long and nothing some good fluids and ice cream cannot solve

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natsJ said on 06 October 2013

My 3 year old daughter had hers yesterday at 9am. She has had none of the expected side effects but she has had a runny tummy a few times, but is still in good spirits, isn't unwell in herself.

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Darcdiamond999 said on 02 October 2013

My 7 year old daughter had the flu vaccine yesterday. Six hours later she started having side effects. Woke up around 11pm really unwell, sore throat, sore ears, feeling sick. Paracetamol did nothing to help her symptoms and after two hours I gave her the maximum dose of ibuprofen for her age. Eventually she fell asleep. She is usually a brave wee soul when she has the cold and hardly complains, however last night she was very distressed. Won't be giving the flu vaccine to her again. My son was also vaccinated yesterday and I hope he isn't going to suffer the same as she has. Wish I hadn't given it to either of them.

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laurashep said on 28 September 2013

My daughter had the nasual spray on Wed and has been unwell since then! She had the spray at 10.30 and by 11.30 started to have alot of wind, didnt want any dinner and went to bed.Woke at 2am with vomitting, seemed to perk up slightly in the morning but had complete loss of appetite again and was vomitting three times in the evening! Friday she was very quiet and lathergic and slept for four hours in the afternoon was not sick in the evening but still has lost appertite and vomitted what she had for dinner tonight! I regret giving her this nasual spray as she is hardly ever ill and this is the worst she has ever been! I feel terrible guilty and hope that she is through the worst! I will b avoiding this spray from now on!x

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Vaccine side effects

What to do if you or your family suffers a side effect after a vaccination, and how you can report the side effect

How do I know that vaccination is safe?

The safety checks performed on vaccines before and after their development

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