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Flu Shot or Nasal Spray?

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.

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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.

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