Should You Get the FluMist Nasal Spray or Shot?

Dr. Dave and Dr. Marla school me on the latest flu news.

Adding to the annual “flu vaccine or no vaccine” conundrum is the recent Canadian approval for the FluMist nasal spray vaccine. It isn’t recommended for pregnant women, those younger than two or older than 59 or anyone with the following: asthma or a history of wheezing, egg allergies, problems with immune suppression or pregnant women. Lucky you for not having to decide! But for the rest of us debating the difference, here are a few key facts:

• FluMist is a preservative-free vaccine that is delivered via a nasal spray.

• It contains a weakened version of the live virus.

• The strains are the same as those in the standard injection.

• If your child hasn’t had the flu vaccine before, he will need two doses a few weeks apart.

• It may lead to mild flu symptoms, like a runny nose or fever.

• It’s available from pharmacies, and costs about $20. Contact your benefit provider to ask if they cover it.

• If you live in Alberta, New Brunswick or B.C., your pharmacist can administer it. Alternatively, you’d probably pick it up from the pharmacy and bring it after work/school/daycare to your doctor or nurse.

• Clinical studies have indicated that, compared to the injectable vaccine, FluMist may offer greater protection against flu strains in children.

• And no, it doesn’t matter if you sneeze after receiving it.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with a few other media moms to talk flu and the FluMist with Dr. Marla Shapiro and Dr. David Greenberg. And, I have to say, Dr. Shapiro is an impressive woman, and Dr. Dave, well, he’s as impossible not to like in person. They likened the FluMist to “putting the drug where it needs to be, whole body protection plus local protection troops at the border, the main entry point.” Here are a few of their other tips for the flu season:

– You’re better off with soap and water than with an antibacterial wash (sing “Happy Birthday” to know when you’re finished washing your hands).

– Alternatively, do 15 seconds with an antimicrobial.

– The one place to use antibacterial wash may be getting on and off the TTC (Toronto’s metro system).

—Melissa, CF‘s lifestyle editor

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