Health Tips from a Mother of Three

Pediatricians Now Advised Not To Use Nasal Spray For Flu Vaccination

Children who are uncomfortable with needles have previously had the option of getting an intranasal spray to vaccinate against influenza. But the live attenuated influenza virus, or LAIV, in the nasal spray may not be very effective against the flu, so this year, most medical professionals are no longer recommending it.

Why Flumist is No Longer Recommended

Known by the brand name Flumist, the LAIV is administered by squeezing it up the nasal passage rather than giving an injection. But some studies showed that the LAIV was only 3 percent effective, compared to the shot. The injection form of the flu vaccine is inactivated, or no longer live, and is effective 63 percent of the time in children ages 2 through 17.

Based on this information about the LAIV's lack of effectiveness in 2015-16, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their recommendation to avoid the spray for this upcoming flu season. Children's health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, is advising members to heed this recommendation, so it's likely that your children's doctor will not have Flumist available this year.

But the problems haven't just occurred in one flu season; Flumist has had issues beyond just the past year. During the 2013-14 season, experts found that the spray did not protect well against the H1N1 strain of influenza -- a strain that was particularly harsh in younger kids. Before that year, though, it seemed like the nasal spray was just as effective in children ages 2 to 8 as the shot, so pediatricians often suggested it as an alternative to the injection.

Importance of the Flu Vaccine

Most pediatricians strongly advise that parents have all their children older than 6 months vaccinated every year to reduce their chances of getting sick. The flu can cause muscle aches, fever, sore throat and cough in children and adults alike. The virus typically runs its course in less than a week, but as many as 114,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu-related complications. Children are often at risk of complications because their immune systems are less developed than those of adults.

The influenza virus mutates or changes each year, so the effectiveness of the vaccine is dependent on experts predicting which strains of the flu will be most prevalent. But even if a child does get flu symptoms after getting the vaccine, their case is more likely to be mild and not require medical attention. 

Talk to your children's doctor about the vaccines that are best for your kids and how to protect them against the flu.