While the flu is commonly regarded as little more than a severe cold, the truth of the matter is that influenza complications can be serious or even life-threatening, especially for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that severe flu complications are most common in children under two years of age, and that an average of 20,000 children under five years old are hospitalized each year as a result of those complications. And, unfortunately, each year influenza complications result in death for some children. The gravity of the issue causes medical professionals to strongly recommend that children receive an annual influenza vaccination to provide them with immunity against the illness, with the CDC’s official stance being that everyone over the age of six months should receive a flu shot. There is an alternative to the flu shot on the market now, sold under the name FluMist. While FluMist is not an ideal choice for everyone, it can be an effective, needle-free means of vaccination against influenza. There are, however, some key points to consider before making the decision to use FluMist in lieu of a traditional flu shot.
Consider Your Child’s Age and Physical Health – While an injected influenza vaccination is generally considered safe for anyone over the age of six months, the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, marketed under the brand name FluMist, is not recommended for any child under the age of two, kids under five years of age that have a history of wheezing, anyone with asthma, or anyone who has a compromised immune system. Kids that have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome are generally advised not to use FluMist, either. There are other contraindications with the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, which you should take under careful consideration and discuss with a doctor, clinician or other medical professional before having the nasal mist administered to your child.
Take Anxiety Problems into Account – While no child is a particular fan of needles, some handle the idea of having an injection administered better than others. Children who suffer from extreme anxiety related to injections or needles are particularly good candidates for FluMist, provided that their age and medical history show no contraindications. Because a flu vaccination must be administered every year, unlike other immunizations, some parents may opt to skip the vaccine in the interest of preventing episodes of extreme anxiety or fear in their child. In such cases, discussing the option of a nasal mist over traditional injection is a much better option than forgoing immunization altogether.
Weigh the Risks and Benefits of Each Option – While FluMist is not injected and therefore may be a more palatable option for needle-shy kids and their parents, there are other risks and benefits associated with each immunization option currently available. Unlike the flu shot, FluMist is made with a weakened, live influenza virus. This can be off-putting for some parents, but it shouldn’t cause your child to contract the flu and is doesn’t contain thimerosal, a preservative used in the flu shot. Thimerosal is mercury-based, and is often cited as a possible cause of autism spectrum disorders in children. While no association between thimerosal exposure and autism has ever been found in clinical studies, concerns over the thimerosal content of the traditional flu vaccine are still discussed among parents and patients. Single-dose vials of the flu shot, however, don’t contain thimerosal according to the CDC, so if thimerosal is a concern to you, ask your child’s doctor about using a single-dose vial.
Keep Allergies and Food Sensitivities in Mind – Children that have an allergy to eggs should not receive FluMist, as cases of reaction ranging from hives to anaphylaxis have been reported. It’s wise to discuss any allergies or sensitivities that your child has with his pediatrician before having either immunization option administered, in order to ensure that he won’t be inadvertently exposed to any potentially dangerous substances.
Consult With Your Pediatrician – While the choice regarding which, if any, method you use to vaccinate your child against influenza is ultimately yours alone, it’s best to consult with your child’s pediatrician to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have. She will have access to more current information on both immunization options, and can help you make the best decision for your child