Make Mine a Double…Up The Nose
Oct 26, 2010

By Christine Vara
Yesterday, my daughters and I got our flu shots.  Actually, we got a double nasal spray – one up each nostril.  I must say that whoever created the nasal-spray flu vaccine was most likely a parent, as well as an absolute genius.
Let’s face it.  No one “likes” getting shots.  However, when we recognize the benefit of vaccines it makes it easier to accept the fact that the shot may be… well… uncomfortable.  We accept the pain of the needle for the gain of protection, but that’s often a hard sell with the kids. 
With infants and toddlers there is no way to explain the benefits of immunizations.  Personally, I have found that as my kids got older, it helped if I prepared them for their shots beforehand.  For instance, just prior to any vaccination appointment, I would explain that they were going to get a quick shot of medicine that was necessary to keep them from getting really sick from some bad diseases.  I made sure to emphasize that the shot would feel like a hard pinch and possibly sting, but by the time they said “Ouch” it would all be over and we could then get a milkshake as a reward.
This approach has seemed effective, since none of my five children, after the age of two, ever cried before, during, or even after, their immunizations.   In fact, just this summer, my youngest daughter squeaked out a nervous laugh when she saw the needles for the four shots she received during one appointment prior to Kindergarten.   While the last one was emphasized by a much longer “Oooouuuch”, she still managed to ask, “Is that it?” and was quickly distracted by the thrill of sticker selecting with the nurse.
Unfortunately, now that my other children are getting older, I find myself in a new position.  As they approach 10, 11, 12 and 14, these kids aren’t as trusting as they once were.  Their young minds have excellent memories that are capable of recalling even the slightest bit of pain – like their hangnail from a week ago.
When I mentioned that I was bringing them to the clinic for their flu shots this week, I was astonished by the arguments I heard -everything from the pathetic plea of “But I don’t want to get a shot,” to the ridiculous statement, “But I promise I won’t get sick.”  The fact is that kids this age will try whatever they can to get out of whatever it is their parents want them to do.  No great revelation here.   So with this kind of push-back, I’ll admit that I was secretly dreading our visit to the clinic.
With five kids in tow, I was simply outnumbered (as usual) but not  feeling up for a fight (as sometimes I can be).  As I pushed through the clinic doors, I rushed up to the counter.  While the children were still a few steps behind me, I inquired whether they offered the nasal-spray flu vaccine.  Even though this vaccine has been approved since 2003, none of the military clinics we have been assigned to in the past have ever offered them as an option.  How happy was I to discover that it was my lucky day.  They had the nasal-spray flu vaccine AND there was hardly a wait!
What some parents may not realize is that there are two types of influenza vaccines that protect against seasonal flu. The “flu shot”, which is an inactivated vaccine, is given with a needle that contains a killed virus.  The nasal-spray flu vaccine (or FluMist®) contains attenuated (weakened) live viruses, and is administered by a nasal sprayer.  While the flu shot is approved for use among people 6 months of age or older, including people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), the nasal-spray vaccine is approved only among healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
I turned to my children, seated ever so reluctantly in the waiting room, with a big smile; certain they would be relieved to hear that they didn’t have to get a “shot”. Yet, as I shared the good news, I was reminded of yet another critical parenting lesson; kids are almost always afraid of the unknown.  Still whining and moaning as we entered the vaccine room, their relief didn’t come until I had offered to be the first patient.
I took it bravely up the nose, with a few large sniffles.  Then, to get back at the kids for all their complaining, I did my best imitation of a slow dying patient.  I dramatically moaned and groaned (similar to the way they had), stumbled out of the chair and fell onto the ground.
While that only got a couple of chuckles from the younger few, my true intent was to embarrass the older kids, which proved to be successful as they snickered and rolled their eyes in response to my dramatic display.
In the end, we were all a bit relieved.  I felt good knowing that I had done my best to protect them, and  those they come in contact with, by ensuring they were vaccinated early in the season.   They also appreciated that they were sparred a shot, while still getting the protection of the vaccine.  And while we left without Dora stickers or Sesame Street band-aids, we did manage to stop for a milkshake on our way home.
(If your wondering why there are only three kids in these photos, it’s because as kids get older, they are no longer anxious to see themselves in photos.  My oldest two begged me not to post their photos with their noses up in the air.  Since I agreed that the photos weren’t very flattering, this time their request was granted.)
For more information regarding the seasonal flu shot and the nasal-spray flu, visit the CDC website at
For locations of where you can get flu vaccines, check out the flu finder at
For more great tools to help those busy, on-the-go parents, check out these flu reminder options here.

Text Message Reminders: Search for a clinic in your area and then schedule a text message reminder.  Click “Remind Me Via Text” and enter your  phone number and mobile carrier. A text message alert will be sent on the morning the clinic is open containing the location, address, and time of the clinic that was requested. Text messaging and data rates may apply.

Flu Shot E-mail Reminders:  This resource allows users to search for a clinic and then request a reminder by E-mail. After searching for clinics your area, users can schedule an E-mail reminder by clicking “Remind Me Via E-mail” and entering their name and E-mail address. An E-mail with all clinic information will be sent the day before the clinic operates.

Flu Shot Reminder E-Cards:  Remind friends and loved ones to get vaccinated this season with virtual cards from Maxim Health Systems. To get started just choose an image, fill out the form, and send!

Online Flu Shot Locator Widget:  This tool allows all website and blog owners to install an online flu shot locator on their own sites. The widget code is located at If you download the widget to your site, you can share flu clinic information and flu news with your own website visitors.

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