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Flu Shot vs FluMist


Young patient getting vaccination

Everyone talks about getting the flu shot—but almost no one ever mentions the FluMist nasal spray, at least until you’re in your doctor’s office. If your child is wary of needles, FluMist may be the way to go. But it’s important to weigh the differences prior to making the decision.

Difference Between a Flu Shot and FluMist

The most important differences are how each is delivered and what makes up the shot versus the mist. The flu shot is administered by an injection and contains an inactive virus sample. FluMist is delivered via nasal spray and contains a live virus. This means there are some risks to certain populations, as detailed in the following table.

Who Can Receive

Flu Shot



6 months and up

2-49 years old

Asthma, wheezing or albuterol use in the last year



Children with diabetes


Not preferred

Individuals with weakened immune systems



Family members of individuals with weakened immune systems



Individuals who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant



Live vs Inactive Viruses

FluMist is made of live flu viruses. They have been weakened to prevent giving recipients the flu, but you may feel ill after. This is why it’s not recommended for people with weakened immune systems. The flu shot is made of inactive viruses and is safe for people with weakened immune systems.

While no flu vaccine can be 100% effective against the flu, for years doctors have recommended flu shots for all age groups. At the very least, the vaccine, whether given as a nasal spray or a shot, will help lessen the severity of symptoms and greatly lower the risk of hospitalization or serious illness.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) give the okay to both options.


FluMist is a bit more expensive than the flu shot, though most insurance companies pay for both. Contact your insurance company to be certain that they pay.

Cold and Flu Pediatrics