Just because the spray is offered, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you.
Let’s start with a recap of some things you already know. The flu is miserable. It may make you or your family members really sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to protect yourself is to get immunized with an injection or nose spray.
That’s right, this year, for the first time since 2016, the CDC is recommending FluMist. The nasal spray was first approved by the FDA as an alternative to the injection in 2003. What, no more needles? The people rejoiced and raced to their local pharmacy or doctor’s office for the nose spray.
But then in 2016 the CDC determined that FluMist wasn’t effective enough and for two years they did not recommend it as a viable vaccination. The people were sad, but they still went to their doctor or pharmacy to get immunized because they knew it was important.
Those were some dark years, but now here we are in 2018, the dawning of a new age and there is good news again. The CDC is recommending the nose spray. Hooray!
This news is just in time because the flu season can run from October to May and it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies to develop. And, yes, even though you got a shot last year, doesn’t mean you’re immune this year – immunity weakens over time and the virus changes from year to year.
Now, you have a decision to make. Just because the spray is offered, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. What’s the difference? The spray is an attenuated vaccine and that means it contains a germ that is alive but has been weakened so the immune system can create antibodies in response. The injection is an inactivated vaccine that includes an already-dead version of the flu.
“Nasal Spray FluMist is a fine option for patients between the ages of 2-49,” Mylinh Nguyen, the clinical programs manager for Bartell Drugs, says. “However, the inactivated flu vaccine is best for most patients 6 months and above, and the American Academy of Pediatrics does still recommend the flu shot as the first choice for children saying, ’The nasal spray vaccine may be used this year for children who would not otherwise receive the flu shot, as long as they are 2 years of age or older and healthy without an underlying medication condition.’”
The CDC assures us that even though those these weakened germs can seem scary, the vaccines themselves cannot give you the flu. They do not cause the illness. The weakened viruses in the spray are cold-adapted which means they can ONLY cause trouble at the cooler temperatures found in the nose. They cannot infect the lungs or any other warmer parts of the body.
There is, however, a chance you may feel some side effects of the immunization. There can be some soreness at the injection site or low-grade fever and aches. For the nose spray you may get a bit of a runny nose and some wheezing. However, all of these pale in comparison to the real deal of the flu virus itself.
“If a patient becomes exposed to the flu virus,” Nguyen says. “The severity and symptoms of the flu are lessened due to the immune response from the flu vaccination. Patients who experience abrupt symptoms of fever, aches, chills, fatigue/weakness, headache and/or cough should seek immediate medical attention and may be prescribed an antiviral treatment like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) to help lessen the duration of flu and its complications.”
The point of all this? Now is the time to get immunized against the flu. Don’t wait until the virus is sweeping through your office or kids’ school faster than a forest fire in August. Get it taken care of now.
Bartell’s has been the region’s most trusted pharmacy for more than 125 years. Still locally owned and dedicated to the people and families of the Pacific Northwest with 68 convenient neighborhood locations. Bartell Drugs, treating Washington well since 1890.