Should I Get the Flu Shot or the Flu Spray?
The flu vaccine is available in two forms: the injected vaccine and the nasal spray. The shot is approved for everyone over 6 months.
It's long been advised that people with allergies to eggs should not get the flu shot. However, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the vaccine contains such a low amount of egg protein that it's unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in those with an egg allergy. If you have a severe egg allergy (anaphylaxis), talk to your doctor before getting the flu vaccine. Also, flu vaccines not made with the use of eggs are available.
Talk to your doctor if you have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome. People who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover to get the vaccine.
Intradermal flu vaccines go into the top layer of skin instead of the muscle, which means the needle can be 90% smaller than the kind used for a standard flu injection. Like the egg-free vaccines, this one seems like it would be ideal for babies and kids, but it's approved only for adults 18 to 64.
If you're not a fan of shots, the nasal spray vaccine is a good alternative, but it's only approved for non-pregnant people ages 2 to 49 who are generally in good health without chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart or lung disease, or diabetes. Because the spray contains a live but weakened form of the virus, it's not recommended for people with diseases that interfere with the immune system, such as HIV. It also should not be used in children less than 5 years old with asthma or a history of wheezing in the past year, people with muscle or nerve disorders that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems, and children on long-term aspirin treatment. If you have a stuffy nose or other nasal problem that makes breathing difficult, you should get the shot. However, the CDC now recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 through 8 years old when it is available.
Can I Catch the Flu From the Flu Vaccine?
You probably know at least one person who claims he or she came down with the flu days after getting a flu vaccine. Though your friend might have felt sick, the vaccine wasn't to blame for the ailment. "It's a very commonly held myth, but it's just that," Weinberg says. "It's absolutely impossible scientifically and medically to get the flu from the inactivated vaccine shot."
You can't catch the flu from the vaccine, because the version of the virus used in flu shots is dead. In the nasal spray vaccine the virus is severely weakened, so it's not likely to cause more than a few sniffles or sneezes. Chances are, your friend either had a bad cold or another respiratory infection, not the flu.
Most side effects from the influenza vaccination are mild, like soreness at the site of the shot, a low-grade fever, or a little achiness. You're actually far safer getting the vaccine then skipping it. "There's a much higher rate of getting complications if you take your chances with the real disease than if you get immunized," Weinberg says.