Nasal Flu Spray Better Than Shots When Protecting Kids, Experts Say

Sorcha Szczerbiak

There's good news for needle-phobic kids who need protection from the seasonal flu: According to a federal advisory panel that met to consider the issue on Wednesday, many believe it's more effective for young kids to receive a nasal flu spray instead of a shot. That opinion is also positive in light of previous studies that have suggested when people get the nasal flu spray instead of a shot, their chances of getting influenza are cut in half.

The experts suggested that doctors should be encouraged to recommend the nasal flu mist for patients ranging from 2 to 8 years of age. The only nasal flu mist currently on the market in the United States is made by AstraZeneca, and it's appropriately named FluMist. However, it's not a new flu treatment. In 2003, it received licensure and approval to be given to people ranging from age 2 to 49.

One difference that the nasal flu mist has over the shots besides the lack of an "ouch" factor is that it contains a strain of the flu virus that's weakened, but still alive. With the shots, the flu virus is dead. The experts think when the nasal flu spray is given to healthy kids, it more adequately promotes an immune response, so that the children who have never had the flu stay protected from it. However, the same effect has not yet been seen in adults.

It's also worth noting that the nasal flu mist is a bit more expensive than getting a shot, or at least, it could be. Generally, the shots range in price from $8 to $22, and the FluMist costs around $23. If you're interested in getting your child vaccinated with the nasal flu mist but your doctor doesn't have it in stock, the expert panel clarified that flu shots are still effective for young kids.

This advice about the nasal flu spray is from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a body that acts as an official advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC must decide whether to abide by the advice or not. Even if it does, parents will still be free to get shots for their kids rather than the mist that's sprayed up the nose. In the coming months, there may be more needle-free alternatives besides the nasal flu spray. The CDC widely recommends that people get vaccinated against the flu annually, and there are several groups researching ways to take care of that need without the anxiety and pain that needles usually cause.

[Image Credit:]