The Nasal Flu Spray: Get the Facts

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on February 29, 2024
2 min read

Be honest: Are you skipping your annual flu shot because you hate needles? That’s understandable. But don’t let it stop you from getting vaccinated. There’s another option: the nasal spray vaccine.  

It’s an illness that’s caused by a virus. It attacks your lungs and the other organs that help you breathe. It can cause fever, chills, body aches, cough, runny nose, congestion, fatigue, and sore throat. You might have all of these symptoms or just a few.

Almost everyone 6 months of age and older, according to the CDC. It can help keep you from getting sick and spreading it to others. If you do get the flu, your symptoms likely won’t be as bad.

It’s made from weakened flu viruses. Your doctor sprays  it into your nose. It protects you from the flu viruses that could make you sick during the upcoming flu season.

Studies show that both the flu shot and nasal spray work. For adults, doctors found that the nasal spray works just as well as the flu shot. In 2009, they found that the nasal spray worked better in children. But later studies didn’t show that it was any more effective than the shot. Whether you get the shot or spray is up to you.

Most people ages 2 through 49 who are healthy and not pregnant.

  • Children under 2 
  • Adults 50 and over
  • Anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine or a previous flu vaccine
  • Children and teens who get aspirin therapy
  • Children between ages 2 and 4 who have asthma or have had a history of wheezing in the past year
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system
  • Anyone who has taken influenza antiviral drugs in the last 48 hours
  • Anyone who cares for someone with a weakened immune system

They’re usually minor. But when they happen, they may look like flu symptoms. You might get a runny nose, chills, tiredness, headache, congestion, sore throat, and cough. Children might also get fever, muscle aches, wheezing, and tummy pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Call 911 if you have any of the following symptoms. They can be signs of a severe reaction:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

As soon as it’s available -- if possible by October. But you can still get vaccinated any time during flu season, which usually peaks in January or later. Once you use the nasal flu spray, it takes about 2 weeks to start working.