We all know by now that getting the flu shot is an absolute must. Up to 20% of all Canadians get the flu each and every year—and the flu can be very serious for kids, particularly those under age five. Children have the highest rates of influenza and associated complications, and they’re contagious for a longer period of time.
But ask any parent what comes to mind when they think of the flu shot, and chances are good they can painfully recall at best a frightened and squirming child, and at the worst, a screaming, wailing terrified child. Those tearstained little faces break our hearts every fall.
So it’s with pleasure and relief that we can now say those days are done. The flu vaccine is now available as a nasal spray—instead of only an injectable—at flu providers across Ontario. (And in limited quantities from public health clinics and physicians elsewhere. Check with your flu shot provider about availability, or search here.)
This spray has been available before, but this is the first year it’s widely available. We had some questions, so we reached out to Dr. Dina M. Kulik, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Pediatrics, Staff Physician at The Hospital for Sick Children, and a savvy mom of three boys.
Who Can Get the Nasal Spray?
Bad news for those of us who loathe needles—Dr. Dina informs us that the spray is only available for kids. Kids ages 2–17 are eligible to receive it. Kids who are ineligible for the spray include those under two years of age, those with severe asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, weakened immune systems, anaphylaxis to eggs or previous flu vaccines, or anyone taking ongoing ASA therapy.
What’s It Like?
Let’s be real: when someone says ‘nose’, we think ‘runny’. So when we imagined someone spraying medicine into our kiddo’s noses, we wondered about it dripping out. Would our tykes hop down from the nurse’s chair, wiggle their noses, and knock out half the medicine? Dr. Dina assured us that even if a bit of spray drips or leaks, most will get in there and the vaccine will still be effective. Phew.
Dr. Dina says that, ‘It does feel a bit funny to have some liquid sprayed in the nose, but I haven’t heard from my patients that it smells or tastes funny. Most think it’s hilarious.’ That’s a relief.
What Else is New?
But, it gets better. The nasal spray is actually formulated to protect our kids from more strains of the flu than ever before. The nasal spray flu vaccine will help offer broader protection against four flu viruses—the added protection comes against an additional B-strain of the flu virus, which affects children and youth more frequently than adults.
Our Final Verdict
With Dr. Dina’s words in mind, we took our own kiddos to get the spray last week. Last year, we had to hold them down. This year: a world of difference. The whole experience was pain-free for all, and we didn’t even have to play our trump card: bribing them with chocolate.