Health & Medicine

The best protection against the flu for your kids is a shot or spray vaccine

FILE - This Oct. 17, 2012 file photo shows a patient getting a flu shot.
FILE - This Oct. 17, 2012 file photo shows a patient getting a flu shot. AP Photo

Flu vaccinations just got a lot easier thanks to a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control.

Starting this year, the CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (you may know it as FluMist) for healthy children between the ages of two through eight, when it is available instead of the flu shot. Yes, parents, you heard right — no needles.

The nasal spray vaccine is a live attenuated influenza vaccine that gets squirted into each nostril, whereas the flu shot contains killed viruses and is injected into the skin. Both are excellent at protecting our bodies from the flu. Neither vaccine makes you sick.

However, recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in children. This is because the nasal spray flu vaccine provides extra immunity on surfaces where you often come into contact with the flu such as the nose and mouth.

If the nasal spray vaccine is not available and the flu shot is, children should get the shot that is available. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. Some children are advised to get a booster dose, which means a second flu vaccine one month following their first dose of flu vaccine to be fully protected.

Most people who get the flu never want it again. Telltale flu symptoms include fever, cough, congestion and body aches. A typical course of the flu lasts about one week. You are considered contagious while you have a fever and for a few days before symptoms kick-in, which is why the flu spreads so easily.

Another consideration for getting your child vaccinated is that children less than 2 years old have the highest risk of complications from influenza and those children less than 6 months cannot be vaccinated. Because of this, safeguarding them from influenza is especially important. Making sure all caregivers, siblings and household contacts are vaccinated is the best way to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.

It's not too late to get vaccinated. Flu activity peaks between December and February. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

Even those who have already suffered from the flu should get vaccinated. There are many types of flu strains. Just because you had one type of flu doesn't mean you won't get another. The flu vaccine prevents three to four different strains.

Whether you choose a spray or shot getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against the flu.