Children's Health, Immunizations, Preventive Medicine

Scared of Needles? There’s a Flu Shot for You

Getting your flu shot each year is a vital part of staying healthy — and doing your part to keep others healthy, too. But getting stuck with a needle is a deterrent for some, especially children, and they go without flu protection because they just can’t face getting a jab. Luckily, for most of us, there’s a way to get vaccinated without a needle. Here’s how.

Sniff in your protection

FluMist is a vaccine that’s administered as a nasal spray. It’s one of several flu vaccine options available to you, and it comes recommended by the CDC and Health Canada.

How does it work?

FluMist is made from flu virus that is weakened and “cold-adapted”. That means the bugs only multiply in cooler temperatures (like inside the nose), not in warmer areas such as the lungs. This ensures it won’t give you the flu, but it allows your body to mount its own protection against influenza.

Who can get it?

Most healthy children and non-pregnant adults between the ages of 2 and 49 can get the nasal flu vaccine.

Unlike the flu needle, FluMist is made from a live virus, so it isn’t recommended for people with weak immune systems (immunosuppression). If you care for someone with a weakened immune system and choose to have the nasal spray vaccine, you should steer clear from them for seven days to avoid exposing them to the virus.

Because of limited data in people with asthma and other medical conditions (like diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease), if you have an underlying medical condition or if you take medication, it’s recommended that you speak to your doctor before considering the nasal spray vaccine.

I heard something about it not being effective a few years back. What’s changed?

In the United States during the 2013-2014 flu season, the nasal spray vaccine was less effective than its needle counterparts. It’s thought that its decreased effectiveness was caused by being transported through warmer climates (not an issue in most of Canada!). Since then, FluMist has been modified to be more resistant to changes in temperature, and it’s being recommended again.

So, whether you choose your flu protection by needle or nose, get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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