The flu is usually far from our minds in summertime, but an announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the nasal spray vaccine FluMist has put influenza back at the forefront. Come this fall, the FluMist nasal spray won’t be offered to anyone — flu shots will be the only option available for the young and old. If you have kids who panic at the mere mention of a needle, here’s what you need to know.
The Lowdown on the FluMist News
Recently, a CDC committee made up of a panel of immunization experts announced that they were no longer recommending FluMist for the upcoming 2016-2017 flu season. The FluMist nasal spray is the only flu vaccine that comes in a form other than an injection (shot). You may have heard FluMist referred to by the more formal name “live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV).”
So why the sudden change? Every season, the CDC studies how effectively the flu vaccine is working. They found that the FluMist nasal spray version didn’t prevent flu cases from 2013 to 2016.
What This Means to You
This flu season (from October to May), the flu shot vaccine will be the only option offered to combat the flu in children and adults. But even though the FluMist nasal spray won’t be available, it’s still vitally important to get vaccinated this year and every year because the flu strains change from year to year.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective. It doesn’t cause the flu. At the same time, getting vaccinated can’t guarantee your child won’t contract the virus. But, if your child does catch the flu, the symptoms should be fewer and milder if vaccinated ahead of time.
The flu vaccine is highly recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, except for those who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination or have Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves). People with egg allergies were previously advised to avoid the flu vaccine because it’s grown inside eggs. Now, though, health experts say it’s safe for those with egg allergies to get a flu shot — as long as you get the shot at a doctor’s office, not a pharmacy, supermarket, etc.
How to Beat Needle Anxiety
A lot of children and teenagers really, really hate needles, so the news about the FluMist no longer being an option will not be music to their ears. But as scary as it might be for some kids, the flu shot is essential for all ages. So here are some tips and tricks to reduce anxiety for infants to teens when it’s time for the flu shot:
- Bring a favorite toy, game, electronic device or book to use as a distraction.
- Listen to music with headphones.
- Count or sing together.
- Take deep breaths (slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth).
- Hold hands with or sit with your child on your lap.
- Encourage your child to look away and focus on something else in the room (like a picture on the wall), relax the arm, and cough as the needle is inserted.’
- Try to appear as calm as possible, Mom and/or Dad. Kids can pick up on your anxiety, especially if you look upset or concerned.
- Incorporate praise and/or other forms of positive reinforcement (like a fun activity or a little treat) into the post-shot experience.
Doctors and nurses usually have experience with needle anxiety. Letting them know about your child’s and/or your nerves ahead of time can be helpful, as they often have tips to help you both relax.