Should I Get the Flu Nasal Spray for My Kids (Or Is It Not As Good)?

Understanding the best option for protecting them this year

Flu season’s here (again). And the time to get your kids vaccinated is now. According to the CDC, 180 children died from influenza last year — and 80 percent of them weren’t vaccinated. But when it comes to getting your child vaccinated, what’s best? The flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine?

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After all, you may have noticed that the nasal spray vaccine is back again (after a two-year hiatus). And given how your kids fuss with the shot, you may wonder if it’s an acceptable alternative.

Pediatric infectious disease expert Frank Esper, MD, says improvements have made the nasal vaccine more effective than when offered in years past, but the traditional flu shot is still preferred.

An option, but not the best

“While the mist is an option, the shot is still the recommendation,” Dr. Esper says. “So, this year when children (over the age of 6 months) go to get a flu vaccine, the pediatricians are really going to stress the importance of the flu shot.”

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Dr. Esper says sometimes parents are leery of the flu shot because they think it’ll give their child the flu. But he says that simply isn’t true.

“The flu shot is a dead virus shot,” he explains. “You cannot get the flu from the flu shot; and we say this over and over again. It just has dead virus and pieces and parts of that virus — it helps your immune system understand what to look for when it’s being attacked by flu.”

The shot also protects everyone around your kids

The flu can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. Dr. Esper says having your child vaccinated can protect them from the flu — but it also protects people around them who may be high risk.

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“There are a lot of people that we know who are really at-risk for having really bad flu — people who have asthma, or people who have bad immune systems because they’re undergoing some medications that’s reducing their immune system, or they have cancer — or you have a baby, and newborn babies cannot get the flu vaccine, but they can really get bad flu,” he notes.

The flu shot can take two to four weeks before it’s fully effective, he adds. So it’s best to be vaccinated sooner, rather than later.

But at the end of the day, Dr. Esper says, if you have a child who’s terrified of needles and you’re avoiding the flu shot because of it, the nasal vaccine is an option. It’s more important to receive any flu vaccination than none at all.

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