We’ve all been there: sitting in the waiting room, heart pounding, waiting for your name to be called. From small children to mature adults, no one enjoys being vaccinated against the flu. More broadly referred to as aichmophobia, needle-phobia makes many of us dread those trips to the doctor’s office.
However, since 2003 an alternative has been available. FluMist, formally called Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV), is an alternative form of the flu vaccine. Like the traditional shot, it works by exposing your body to a weakened version of the flu virus, allowing your immune system to generate a powerful, long-lasting memory response against subsequent reinfections. However, FluMist is different in a few key ways.
First, FluMist is a nasal spray, allowing patients to avoid the traditional annual flu shot. Additionally, as its name suggests, LAIV contains a live version of the flu virus, as opposed to the dead virus found in the flu shot. While this might sound dangerous at first, the virus is severely attenuated, or weakened, so that it does not present a significant danger to a healthy patient.
While both the flu shot and FluMist have proven successful in annual flu vaccinations, each has its niche market. FluMist is recommended for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 who are not pregnant. It is especially recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 8, where it has been show to prevent approximately 50% more cases of flu when compared to the flu shot. FluMist has been shown to cause slightly more severe side effects than the flu shot, such as a runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough. Therefore, the traditional shot is recommended for children under the age of 2 and adults over the age of 50.
Altogether, FluMist represents an interesting alternative to the traditional vaccination experience. As technology advances, nasal sprays are being developed for the treatment of other diseases as well, representing an interesting change in pharmaceutical development. For now, you can just breathe a sigh of relief that preventing the flu doesn’t necessarily mean having to interact with another needle.
Feature Image Source: Staff Sgt. Matt Scotten, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs