Flu Shot or Flu Mist-Two Ways to Vaccinate
Every year we have Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, you know--all the holidays we know and love. The season includes many get togethers and parties. There is another part of this season, actually a season all its own. Not only do we share gifts and love---we share illness.
Flu season begins sometimes as early as October and some years can last into May. Peak is generally between late December and early March. During this time, approximately 5-20% of the population will come down with the influenza virus. Of those who get the flu, 200,000 people will require hospitalization, and the most sobering statistic is this, 36,000 people will die from influenza related complications.
The influenza virus in actually not just one virus, but various viruses that cause the same or similar symptoms. The flu generally hits fast, and it hits hard. Symptoms that include headache, fever, fatigue, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, and sometimes may include a runny or stuffy nose, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Influenza is spread through contact with nasal or throat secretions. Primarily from a cough or a sneeze. Droplets from these can travel up to three feet. The Flu virus can live longer on surfaces than cold viruses, but the jury is still out as to just how long. It may be as long as 48 hours. So you can get this virus from direct inhalation of droplets from an infected person, or from touching objects that have the virus on them, and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
If you do come in contact with the virus, as a general rule, it is one to four days from exposure to symptoms.
Why not avoid the flu if possible? Getting a vaccination against influenza is not a guarantee that you will not get the flu, but it is the very best insurance policy that we have.
The CDC has set up certain recommendations They are:
Those at higher risk for developing complications from the flu
Children 6 months old to Children up age 5 years
People 50 and over
Anyone with certain chronic medical conditions
Those living in nursing homes or any long term care facility
People who are caregivers or live with anyone in the "higher risk" group
Anyone who is a "household contact" of a person who is considered higher risk for complications from the flu
A caregiver or a "household contact" of a child less than 6 months of age ( they are too young to be vaccinated)
They then continue to say that anyone who wants reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others should consider vaccination.
This is the first year that FluMist has been approved to include children aged 2 to 5 years of age. Previously it was only approved for healthy adults and children 5 and up.
So what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having the Flu Shot compared to FluMist? Essentially for a healthy person, both will get the job done, but I will give you a brief breakdown.
FluMist is a nasal spray. It contains live, attenuated virus. This means that the virus is weakened. It is also referred to as LAIV (Live Attenuated Influenza Virus). It is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49 years of age. It is not for pregnant women. Some studies suggest that the protection given from FluMist is better than from the traditional flu shot. This is because of the fact that antibodies from the shot are only built up in the blood, where the immune response in stimulated both in the nose and in the blood in FluMist. Generally the nose is where the influenza virus first enters the body-so the war on the virus is beginning more quickly on a first line basis.
The downside of FluMist is that it is a live, but weakened virus. This, it is speculated can lead to some viral shedding and a very low possibility of transmission to others.
Side effects of FluMist can include:
In children -fever, body aches, runny nose, headache, wheezing, and vomiting.
In adults-runny nose, headache, sore throat, cough
The flu shot of course involves a needle stick. For many children this is almost impossible to get them to sit still for. Something to think about and factor in. Yet, it does have some advantages. If you live with someone with a chronic health condition, there is that very slight risk of transmission to them from taking FluMist. This would be enough for me to go with the shot. The shot is recommended essentially for everyone except children under the age of 6 months. Including those with certain chronic medical conditions.
Side effects of the Flu Shot can include:
Soreness, achiness, redness, or some local swelling where the shot was given
A low grade fever
Of course, there is the possibility of allergic reaction. These are rare, and make sure to tell your nurse and doctor if you have egg allergy or sensitivities, or if you are allergic or sensitive to Thimerosol. Many vaccines have removed Thimerosol, but just be safe and make sure to let them know if you are sensitive to it.
When you go in for your influenza vaccine, you and your doctor can discuss which is best for your situation.
Another thing to consider is timing. The optimal time for vaccination is October. That way you have built your antibodies by the time flu season is really gearing up. It takes a full two weeks to get full coverage. Plus if you do it then, you are covered for all those holiday parties and family gatherings. But, if you didn't get it in October, it is still worth it to go in and get that vaccination anytime during flu season.
Jennifer Garner--Don't Flee the Flu Shot
- Flu Season – When is the Flu More Common?
Learn when the peak flu season is in the United States and how the flu season varies from year to year.