Flu vaccination for children at school

All primary school children are now offered the flu vaccine through their school health service. Most of these children will be offered the vaccine by a simple, painless nasal spray.

In addition, most children aged up to 17 years in the at-risk groups below are offered a vaccine that is given as a nasal spray instead of an injection.

Children with the following conditions are considered at risk:

  • a chronic chest condition such as asthma
  • a chronic heart condition
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy (people living in the same house as someone with lowered immunity may also need to be vaccinated)
  • a chronic neurological condition such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or a condition that affects the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy
  • any other serious medical condition (check with a GP if unsure).

Other children who are at risk:

  • children who have previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection
  • children attending schools for pupils with severe learning difficulties.

More information can be found in these leaflets for primary school children and older children and adults.

What are the symptoms of flu?

The symptoms of flu often start suddenly and include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • pains in the limbs or joints
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • runny nose

Some people also experience vomiting and diarrhoea.

How is flu treated?

Most people, including children, will recover within a few days. Rest and over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol will help. Anyone with flu-like symptoms should stay at home to prevent the spread of infection.

If there are underlying conditions, or if the child feels short of breath or very unwell, you should telephone their GP or GP out of hours service for advice. Antiviral medication may be advised in these cases.

It is important that patients do not go to an Emergency Department unless it is absolutely necessary and urgent.

Should a child develop flu-like symptoms at school, arrangements should be made for them to be taken home as soon as possible. 

While waiting, they should be placed in a suitable area, such as a medical room or small office (to reduce the spread of infection), but where they can be kept under observation.

Parents should take their child straight home and, if necessary, telephone their GP or GP out of hours service.

If a child develops flu-like symptoms at home, they should be kept away from school until they recover and parents should, if necessary, seek medical advice.

Hygiene advice

Parents and schools can help reduce the spread of all viruses by encouraging children to practise good personal hygiene:

  • Washing their hands frequently with soap and water will reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Covering their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and using a tissue where possible.
  • Disposing of used tissues quickly and carefully.

Schools should ensure that adequate supplies of liquid soap, hot and cold water, and paper towels or hot air dryers are available for pupils and staff. 

It is not necessary for schools to provide hand sanitisers. However, should they wish to do so, it is important to note that they are not a substitute for good hand washing facilities.

Hard surfaces (eg door handles) should be frequently cleaned using a normal cleaning product.