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The Shot or the Spray: Finding Your Best Option

When it comes to protecting you and your loved ones from influenza (the flu), you have options. In the past, you might have relied on a flu shot to keep you and your family healthy during the winter, but the FluMist® nasal spray vaccine may be worth a try.

“Research has shown that the flu shot and nasal spray vaccine are fairly equivalent in terms of effectiveness,” says Cynthia Webb, M.D., pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. “However, using the spray has one advantage —less chance of upsetting children.”

The nasal spray vaccine does contain live viruses, unlike the flu shot, so mild side effects such as runny nose, nasal congestion, chills, sore throat or headache might occur. Also, if your child is receiving the flu vaccine for the first time, he or she will need two doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Either vaccine should be given as soon as it becomes available in September, before flu season starts.

This year, the CDC recommends that all children 6 months through 24 years of age receive the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. According to Dr. Webb, like any new vaccine it will be necessary to obtain two doses for protection.

As the weather turns colder, catching a cold or influenza (the flu) might seem like an inevitable part of the winter season, especially for kids. However, there are several ways to protect your family from illness.

The most important thing parents can do is make sure children are up-to-date on their immunizations including the influenza vaccine,” says Gregory Istre, M.D., pediatrician, infectious disease physician and epidemiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. “It’s also important that parents teach their children to properly wash their hands, avoid close contact with people who are ill and encourage them
to maintain a healthy diet.”

If your child catches a cold, you might be tempted to run to the nearest pharmacy for cough syrup or a decongestant. However, these medicines are not recommended for children under age 6 without the advice of a physician and should only be occasionally used by children over age 6, according to Cynthia Webb, M.D., pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano.

“Colds will usually clear up on their own, but make sure your child gets plenty of fluids and rest. Treating a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen is reasonable to make your child more comfortable,” Webb says. “Also, sick children should be kept home from school to avoid spreading illness to others.”

If your child’s cold symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or if you notice labored breathing, body aches or a high fever that lasts more than three days, take your child to the pediatrician immediately. According to Dr. Webb, these could be signs of a bacterial infection, which should be treated with antibiotics.

For more information about pediatric services at Texas Health Plano or to request a free copy of our Healthy Kids Kit, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) or visit us online at TexasHealth.org/healthykidskit.

(Fall/Winter 2009)

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