My 12-year-old daughter had the nasal flu vaccine a few weeks ago. A week later she developed a bad nose cold (no fever) and is still not fully recovered. I’m not sure if it’s related, but wanted to ask if this is possible. Most importantly, I want to know if there are any known long-term consequences of having the nasal vaccine. I’m hoping we made the right decision to have the nasal vaccine instead of the injection.
I took your question to James Cherry, M.D., a professor of pediatric infectious diseases who works with Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. Asked if your daughter’s cold could have been related to the nasal flu vaccine, he responded, “Almost certainly not.” Some people do experience symptoms after having the nasal flu vaccine, but Cherry says these come on right away. Since your daughter’s cold didn’t come along until a week after she received the vaccine, “Unfortunately, she was exposed to somebody with a cold and she caught it,” Cherry says.
No long-term side-effects have been documented from the nasal flu vaccine. Cherry does point out that young children seem get a slightly better immune boost from the nasal vaccine, while adults do better with the injection. Your daughter being right in the middle, both should be fine.
He also says the flu vaccine, in either form, is well worth getting. “You have roughly 35,000 deaths a year from flu, and a large number of those are preventable through the vaccine.”
Jill Hoffman, M.D., acting head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles also chimed in with this response:
I cannot answer this question specifically as it relates to your child, but I can tell you from my experience and expertise that the most common side effects are stuffy nose and mild scratchy throat occurring up to a few days after receipt of the FluMist nasal vaccine. Since cold viruses are very common, especially this time of year, it is possible that your daughter was coincidentally incubating a cold virus at the time of the vaccine, which then manifested itself a week later. The vaccine is very safe when given to normal children and adults (2-50 years old) and no long-term side effects have been documented, except for protection from influenza for a year! You cannot get influenza from the vaccine.
The vaccine is NOT recommended for :
- People less than 2 years of age
- People 50 years of age and over
- People with a medical condition that places them at high risk for complications from influenza, including those with chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma or reactive airways disease; people with medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure; or people with illnesses that weaken the immune system, or who take medications that can weaken the immune system.
- Children <5 years old with a history of recurrent wheezing
- Children or adolescents receiving aspirin
- People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine
- Pregnant women
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or who are allergic to any of the nasal spray vaccine components.
If you have further questions about your daughter, I would discuss these with your pediatrician and consult the Centers for Disease Control website (www.CDC.gov).
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