10 Facts about Flu and Your Child




As October’s flu season approaches, flu vaccination has been the number one concern from parents. We speak with Professor Lee Bee Wah, a consultant paediatrician from Mt Elizabeth Hospital on Influenza – how it affects your child.


Read on to learn how you can protect your child against influenza, a potentially serious respiratory illness often mistaken as common cold.



1. What is the Difference Between the Influenza/Flu and the Common Cold?


The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone as both have similar flu-like symptoms.


In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.


Flu may lead to serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations or even death especially in populations at higher risk of developing complications of influenza which include children below 5 years old. (Ref 1)


Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds may just have a runny or stuffy nose without fever.




2. Should I vaccinate my children against influenza/flu? What are the risks if I don’t?


Influenza (“the flu”) is generally more severe than the common cold for children. Influenza can be prevented through vaccination.



  • Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old. (Ref 2)
  • Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.(Ref 2)
  • Children with chronic health problems like asthma are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.
  • If your child gets flu they won’t be able to go to school/nursery for up to a week and will need to be cared for at home. You may have to take time off to look after them.
  • Influenza is highly contagious and spread easily within close environment e.g. in an infant/childcare set up, within family. Protecting your child can stop the flu spreading to other children he/she may come into contact with, and to the rest of the family.




 3. Who Should be Immunized?


MoH Singapore and Health Promotion Board recommend everyone above 6 months to be vaccinated especially the following high risk people (Ref 1)



  • 6 to 59 months old children
  • Elderly above 65 years old
  • Those with chronic conditions e.g. asthma, diabetes , heart/ kidney/liver disease
  • Pregnant women
  • Caregivers of those at high risk
  • Those who live in long term care institutions




 4. Who Should Not? Why So?


Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages, speak to your healthcare provider. There are flu vaccines approved for used from 6 months and above.


Flu vaccine is not recommended for those younger than 6 months. However, infants younger than 6 months are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, hence as a caregiver to a young child, you should get a flu vaccine, and make sure that others in the household also get vaccinated each year. By getting vaccinated, you will be less likely to get the flu and therefore less likely to spread the flu to the child.


People with severe, life-threatening allergies to previous flu vaccination or any ingredient in the vaccine e.g. gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients should not get the vaccine.If you have an allergy to eggs, talk to your doctor about your allergy. People who have had a mild reaction to egg—that is, one which only involved hives—may get a flu shot with additional safety measures (Ref 3)




5. When is the Best Time to be Vaccinated Against Influenza/Flu in Singapore?


Influenza presents in Singapore throughout the year with four strains circulating. There are two peaks, April to July and Nov to Feb of the following year.(Ref 4) The peak in April-July is generally higher than the peak in the year end. The flu vaccine generally recommended to be taken once a year, March/April or October/November.




6. What Kind of Influenza/Flu Vaccines are There in Singapore?


The seasonal flu vaccine contains strains of the influenza viruses that have the current circulating strains virus which are identified by WHO surveillance . Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” influenza vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; newer flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” influenza vaccines). The quadrivalent influenza vaccine aims to provide broader protection against all 4 circulating flu viruses. (Ref 5)




7. Can the Flu Vaccine Give Me the Flu?


Influenza vaccine cannot cause the flu.(Ref 7) Like any medical product, vaccines can cause side effects. Side effects of the flu vaccine are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Your child may experience (Ref 7)


  • Mild soreness where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.
  • A low grade fever or aching for the first day or two after immunization.




8. Is it Better to Get the Flu than the Flu Vaccine?


No. Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection (Ref 8)




9. What About People Who Get a Flu Vaccine and Still get Sick with Flu Symptoms?


There are several reasons e.g. (Ref 8)



  • Some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides flu such as rhinoviruses, which are associated with the common cold, cause symptoms similar to flu. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.
  • It is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination when the body is still developing the immune protection. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
  • They may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the similarity or “match” between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those spreading and causing illness.





10. Why Does my Child Need a Flu Vaccine Every Year?


A flu vaccine is needed every year for two reasons. First, the body's immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the composition of the flu vaccine is reviewed every six months by the World Health Organization and updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.(Ref 8)




Additional references researched for this article

Ref 1: MOH Singapore. Influenza. Available at https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/diseases_and_conditions/i/influenza.html Last accessed Sept 2016

Ref 2: Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm. Last accessed Sept 2016.

Ref 3: CDC, US. Vaccination: Who Should Do It, Who Should Not and Who Should Take Precautions Avialable at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm Last accessed Sept 2016. Last accessed Sept 2016.

Ref 4: CDC, US. Protecting Against Influenza (Flu): Advice for Caregivers of Young Children. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/infantcare.htm Last accessed Sept 2016

Ref 5: Saha S, et al. Influenza seasonality and vaccination timing in tropical and subtropical areas of southern and south-eastern Asia. Bull World Health Organ 2014;92:318–30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007122/

Ref 6: CDC. Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/quadrivalent.htm Last accessed Sept 2016

Ref 7: CDC, US. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm#give-me-flu Last accessed Sept 2016.

Ref 8: CDC, US. Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm Last accessed Sept 2016.






© Rise & Shine is established to provide our children with a better opportunities for their upcoming future. Our founding vision was to help and educate parents to nurture healthier, happier and brighter children. As part of what we do, we organise parenting workshops, carnivals and the largest play and educational festival in Asia. We also organise a series of children events throughout the year where families can bond, learn and have fun.


* Required Fields