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What is FluMist?

FluMist is the brand name of the flu vaccine that's given in a nasal spray. Unlike the flu shot, there are no needles involved with FluMist. FluMist flu vaccine is appealing, especially to parents of kids who don't like the sight of needles.

What is FluMist?

While the traditional flu shot is made from killed flu viruses, FluMist is made from weakened live viruses. The weakened live virus reproduces inside the person's nose and produces viruses that the immune system learns to attack. It's unclear whether the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine is more effective. Researchers continue to study that.

How does FluMist work?

Both FluMist and a flu shot stimulate an immune response in different areas. While the flu shot stimulates production of flu-fighting antibodies in the blood, FluMist stimulates production of antibodies in both the blood and the nose.

The greatest difference between the flu shot and FluMist nasal spray vaccine is the production of antibodies in the nose, the place where the flu virus normally enters the body.

How is FluMist given?

The vaccine in FluMist is sprayed into the person's nostrils with a small, needleless syringe. Since it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to fully develop, it's recommended to get the flu vaccine anytime from September to mid November.

Who can use FluMist?

The FDA has approved FluMist for healthy people ages 2-49 years who are not pregnant. Adults receive one dose of the vaccine per year. Children from  ages 2 to 9 who are getting their first influenza vaccine will need a second dose four weeks later. The first dose does not trigger enough antibodies to prevent the flu. Two doses will do the job and in subsequent years they will only need one dose.

Who should not use FluMist?

According to the CDC, those who should not use FluMist include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under age 2
  • People ages 50 years or older
  • Children less than age 5 with recurrent wheezing or asthma
  • Children or adolescents receiving aspirin
  • People with allergies, including anaphylaxis, to any of the parts of FluMist or to eggs
  • People who have chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma or restrictive airways disease, diabetes or kidney failure, or people with weakened immune systems, or medications that can weaken the immune system
  • People with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nervous system disorder, within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine


Are there side effects with FluMist?

Some side effects may occur with FluMist, including a runny nose, headache, wheezing, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever in children. In adults, side effects may include a runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough. It is uncommon for adults to have a fever with FluMist. FluMist does not cause the flu.

Should I get FluMist nasal spray each year?

As with all flu vaccines, you need to get a new flu shot or FluMist nasal spray vaccine every year, because immunity weakens over time and the strains of the most potent flu viruses change over time. As the flu viruses change each year, the past vaccine becomes ineffective.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 27, 2013
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