Flu’s Shot in the Arm

Preparing your child for the flu shot after years of FluMist®

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

Primary Care visit - young girl with doctorIf you’re like most parents, you were thrilled when the intranasal influenza vaccine, known as FluMist®, was released. The nasal spray flu vaccine was a way to protect your child against influenza without another shot.

Unfortunately, due to its decreased effectiveness over the past few years, FluMist is not recommended for use in the United States during the 2016-2017 flu season. The traditional flu shot is effective and recommended for everyone age 6 months and older to prevent influenza and decrease the risk of complications.

“Over the last three years, FluMist has dramatically underperformed the inactivated vaccine,” says Paul A. Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

During the 2015-2016 season, FluMist was estimated to prevent flu in only about 3 percent of cases. Scientists and doctors are investigating the reasons for the decline in effectiveness of this vaccine. Dr. Offit says he’s hopeful that a nasal spray flu vaccine will again be available in the future.

5 tips for flu shots

For children used to receiving the inhaled FluMist, the idea of a flu shot may produce anxiety and worry. Here are five ways you can help your child cope.

  1. Use distraction. Let your child play a favorite game or video on a smart phone or tablet. Tell you child a funny story. Blow bubbles. Play I-spy. Talk about an upcoming vacation or holiday.
  2. Offer comfort. If your infant or toddler uses a pacifier or sleeps with a favorite stuffed toy, offer it before the shot. Hold your child’s hand or hug her to reassure her.
  3. Just relax. Encourage your child to keep his muscles loose like play dough instead of hard like an apple.  The visualization and muscle movement will help the shot go in more easily and hurt less.
  4. Cough. Encourage your child to cough once before the shot and once during the shot. A 2010 study showed children who rapidly inhaled and exhaled had less pain and discomfort.
  5. Tell, don’t warn. If you make the flu shot seem like a big deal, your child will too. Be matter-of-fact about why she needs the shot and how it will protect her. And, set an example by getting your flu shot this year. The influenza vaccine can keep you healthy and help keep influenza out of your house this winter.

To learn more about the situation with FluMist, watch a video where Dr. Offit discusses the recent developments. To find out more about influenza and the influenza vaccine, read the Vaccine Education Center’s influenza Q&A sheet.

Categories: Flu