Is the flu shot or nasal spray better to vaccinate kids?

According to the CDC, last year 180 pediatric deaths were reported due to influenza - and about 80 percent of them were in unvaccinated children.  

But when it comes to getting your child vaccinated against the flu, what's best - the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine?

You might notice that after a 2-year hiatus, the nasal spray vaccine is back. Dr. Frank Esper of Cleveland Clinic Children's says that improvements have made the nasal vaccine more effective, but the flu shot is still preferred.  

"While the mist would be an option, the shot is still the recommendation," he says. "So, this year when children are going - any age over the age of six months - when a child goes to get a flu vaccine, the pediatricians are really going to stress the importance of the flu shot."

Dr. Esper says sometimes parents are leery of the flu shot because they think it'll give their child the flu, but he says that simply isn't true.

"The flu shot is a dead virus shot. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot, and we say this over and over again. It just has dead virus and pieces and parts of that virus [and] it helps your immune system understand what to look for when it's being attacked by flu."

The flu can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications.  

Dr. Esper says having your child vaccinated can protect them from the flu - but it also protects people around them who may be high risk.

"There are a lot of people that we know who are really at risk for having really bad flu, people who have asthma, or people who have bad immune systems because they're undergoing some medications that's reducing their immune system, or they have cancer or you have a baby, and newborn babies cannot get the flu vaccine, but they can really get bad flu."

Remember, the flu shot can take two to four weeks before it's fully effective, so it's best to be vaccinated sooner than later.  

The flu mist is only available for non-pregnant individuals ages 2-49. Dr. Esper says if you have a child who's terrified of needles and you're avoiding the flu shot because of it, the nasal vaccine is an option. It's more important to receive any flu vaccination than none at all.

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