As we embrace cooler temperatures and impending holidays, it’s time to take preventive measures against another seasonal certainty: Influenza. Studies from the brutal 2017-18 flu season show high levels of outpatient clinic and emergency room utilization, as well as a record number of pediatric deaths from influenza-associated illness. Flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children and can cause serious complications.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that the first line of defense against this fast-spreading virus is annual flu immunization for everyone ages 6 months and up as soon as possible. As you consider the options for vaccinating your family members, the nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) may seem like an attractive option to avoid the fear of needles common in kids. However, the AAP’s 2018 recommendations stress that the shot is the preferred option.
First licensed in 2003, Flumist was a popular alternative for vaccination until recent poor performance. During the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 flu seasons the CDC removed its recommendation for the mist. While the FluMist is currently again available, its effectiveness for the upcoming season is unknown. The most reliable method of vaccination is a shot.
Dr. Greg Robson a pediatrician with Oldham County Pediatrics, a division of One Pediatrics agrees. “I would concur with recommendations pediatric patients receive the injectable flu vaccine for protection from the flu during the upcoming season. Recent history has confirmed the injection to be more effective than the Mist. However, I would say the choice to get the Mist is superior to declining vaccination.”
Fortunately, flu shots are widely available in a number of healthcare settings. If you still believe FluMist is the best choice for a family member, consult a healthcare professional first as the mist is not appropriate for everyone. While early and widespread vaccination provides optimal protection, it is better to be vaccinated late than never. Even if you or a family member has already had a flu-like illness, vaccination is still recommended as multiple strains of flu circulate during the season. Flu vaccination is safe and recommended for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Thorough hygiene measures should be stressed to children throughout flu season, especially frequent handwashing and not sharing things that come in contact with their faces, such as food, straws, or lip balm.
If you have any questions about flu vaccinations or treatment, contact your doctor’s office.