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Flu Shot or Nasal Spray?

The Nasal Flu Vaccine (FluMist) continued...

The nasal vaccine can be used in:

  • Anyone between the ages of 2 and 49 who is generally healthy and not pregnant

The nasal vaccine should not be used in:

  • Children under 2 years old
  • Children or adolescents who are taking aspirin
  • Adults 50 years old or above
  • Children or adults who have heart disease, lung disease (like asthma), diabetes, kidney disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, or an immune system weakened by disease or by its treatment
  • Anyone with a history of a severe allergic reaction to eggs or a previous flu vaccine
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are in contact with someone who has an immune system severely weakened by a treatment, such as a stem cell transplant; it is safe to get this vaccine if you're in contact with people who have less severely suppressed immune systems, like people with diabetes or HIV.

Pros: The flu nasal spray is easy to take; children (and many adults) might prefer it to getting a flu shot. Also, there is evidence that in young children, FluMist might offer somewhat better protection against the flu than the traditional flu shot.

Cons: There are more restrictions on who can get FluMist, although experts expect some of these will be lifted in the near future. Some research has shown that FluMist may be less effective in the elderly than the flu shot.

If you have any questions about which flu vaccine you or your child should use, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to guide you.

Who Needs to Be Vaccinated Against the Flu?

The CDC recommends that all people 6 months old and older be immunized against the flu unless there is a medical reason not to. Why suffer through the flu -- and risk complications -- if you can avoid it?

But according to the CDC, there are some people who really must get it. This group includes people who are at high risk from the flu. It also includes those who may not be at high risk themselves but who are in contact with others who are. 

  • Children between 6 months and 18 years old
  • Children on long-term aspirin therapy, who are at higher risk of Reye's syndrome after getting the flu
  • Women who will be pregnant during flu season
  • Adults 50 years or older
  • Adults and children with diseases of the lungs (like asthma), heart, kidneys, liver, blood, or metabolism (like diabetes)
  • Adults and children with immune systems suppressed by illness or its treatment
  • People who live in nursing homes or care facilities
  • People who live with a person at high risk of flu complications
  • Caregivers of children under 6 months
  • Health care workers

Anyone who wants to get the flu vaccine should be able to do so, but if you have a health concern or medical condition, talk to your doctor first.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on July 19, 2012

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