Each year, many children get sick with the flu; some are hospitalized and some die. Young children are the most likely to get sick with the flu. Children younger than 5 years are at high risk of getting serious flu complications. Vaccinating your child is the best way to protect them.
This summer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data from a study comparing flu shots and nasal sprays. Their research found that the nasal spray prevented 50 percent more flu cases than the flu shot in children 2 to 8, and the CDC now recommends that healthy children in this age group be vaccinated with the nasal spray when it’s available.
All nasal-spray vaccines are quadrivalent, which means they protect against four strains of flu virus: two influenza A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and two influenza B strains.
What’s the difference?
Both the flu shot and nasal spray work protect against the flu (neither is 100 percent effective), but they work differently. The shot contains an inactivated influenza virus designed to help the body’s immune system guard against the actual disease.
The nasal spray, sold under the U.S. brand name FluMist, contains weakened versions of the live virus.
The flu shot is approved for people over the age of six months. FluMist is approved for anyone between ages 2 to 49.
Shots are more available than the spray currently.
The CDC recommends flu vaccines for all children over the age of six months. If the spray is not available for children in the 2 through 8 age group, it is recommended they are still vaccinated with the shot.
Which children should not receive FluMist?
According to the CDC, FluMist may not be ideal for children between ages 2 and 8 if:
- Children are getting aspirin therapy, or taking medicines that contain aspirin;
- Children have a weakened immune system (immunosuppression);
- Children have a history of egg allergy;
- Children 2 through 4 years old who have had asthma or wheezing during the last 12 months; (children with asthma may have an increased risk of wheezing)
- Children who have taken influenza antiviral medications (for example, Tamiflu® or Relenza®) within the last 48 hours.
These children may be able to get a flu shot instead.
For children ages 9 and older, either the shot or nasal spray is fine. The CDC does not recommend one over the other for this age group.