For Kids 2 to 8, Nasal Spray Vaccine Brings New Meaning to Flu Shot

fluMistYHP_302x238The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual seasonal influenza immunization for anyone 6 months and older.

Starting with the 2014-2015 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (over the flu shot) for children 2 through 8 years of age when it is available and if the child has had no negative reactions to the vaccine.

“The nasal spray vaccine should be given soon after is it available, usually in October,” says Lisa Swearingen, M.D., a pediatrician with the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. “However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”

Also called the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, the nasal vaccine protects against four flu viruses: two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and two influenza B viruses. It is approved for children 2 years and older and for adults 49 and younger.

“Infants younger than 6 months of age are not approved to receive any formulations of the flu vaccine,” Swearingen says. “That’s why it’s so important for their caregivers and close contacts to receive the flu vaccine, since young infants are the most susceptible to severe flu illness and its complications.”

The supply of the nasal vaccine does not always meet the demand, so consider making that appointment promptly.

“In my clinical experience, we usually run out of the nasal vaccine before the flu shot,” Swearingen says.

Click here for more information about the flu from the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation.

Answers from the Centers for Disease Control to commonly asked questions about the nasal spray flu vaccine:

Q: Which children should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine?

A: Children less than 2 years of age, and those children with history of serious allergic reaction to eggs, history of asthma or with significant wheezing in the past 12 months, and children who are on chronic aspirin therapy or are immunosuppressed.

Q: How often should the nasal spray flu vaccine be given?

A: One dose should be given during each flu season. Children 6-months to 8-years of age who have received one or fewer flu vaccines previously should get two doses spaced at least 28 days apart.

Q: Can the nasal spray flu vaccine be given to children when they are ill?

A: It can be given to children with minor illnesses (such as minor upper respiratory tract infections without fever). However, if significant nasal congestion is present that may limit delivery of the vaccine to the nasal lining.

Q: Does the nasal flu vaccine contain thimerosal or any other preservatives?

A: No.

Q: Can the nasal spray flu vaccine give you the flu?

A: No. Although the nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses (unlike the flu shot), the viruses are weakened and can’t cause flu illness.

Q: What side effects can I expect?

A. Possible reactions include runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, chills, tiredness, sore throat and headache. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of influenza infection.

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