Skip to content

Children's Vaccines Health Center

Flu Shot or Nasal Spray?

Font Size
A
A
A

When it comes to the flu vaccine, the question shouldn't be if you should get it, but rather what type you should get. 

There are two options: the traditional flu shot or the nasal spray FluMist. Both offer about the same level of protection, but some people are better suited for the shot, while others do better with the spray. 

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, to children and teens. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

Learn the guidelines on who should get which type.

The Flu Shot

You get this vaccine by injection, usually into the upper arm. It's made from dead influenza virus and can't give you the flu.  

Side effects: Usually minor and only last a day or two. The most frequent one is soreness in the arm. Less-common symptoms are mild fever and achiness. 

Who can get the flu shot:

  • Adults and children ages 6 months and up

Who shouldn't get the flu shot:

  • Anyone who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (when your body’s immune system attacks your nerves) within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine
  • Babies less than 6 months old
  • People with life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine

You may have heard that people with allergies to eggs shouldn't get the flu shot. But the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says the vaccine has such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. If you have a severe egg allergy (anaphylaxis), talk to your doctor first. There are flu vaccines that have no egg protein.  

Other flu shot options are:

  • Intradermal shots. This type of injection uses a much smaller needle and only goes into the top layer of the skin instead of down into the muscle. It may be a good option for someone who doesn't like needles, but shouldn't get the spray. It's available for those between the ages of 18 and 64.
  • High-dose flu shots. These vaccines can better protect people with weakened immune systems and are recommended for those ages 65 and older.

If you aren't feeling well, you should talk to your doctor about delaying your shot until you're feeling better.

Pros: The flu shot is available for babies 6 months and older. It’s considered safe for a larger age group than the nasal vaccine.

Cons: Injection with a needle can be a tough sell for many people.

Today on WebMD

Baby getting vaccinated
Is there a link? Get the facts.
syringes and graph illustration
Get a customized vaccine schedule.
 
baby getting a vaccine
Know the benefits and the risk
nurse holding syringe in front of girl
Should your child have it?
 

What To Know About The HPV Vaccine
Article
24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
Slideshow
 
Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
Article
Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids
Video
 

Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
Video
gloved hand holding syringe
Article
 
infant receiving injection
Tool
pills
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections