FluMist Ingredients: What’s In The Nasal Spray Influenza Vaccine?


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MSG crystals are used as a stabilizer in the FluMist vaccine. Image by Ragesoss

Monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG, is commonly used in foods as a flavor enhancer. Some people may have a sensitivity to MSG and develop the following symptoms in response to its use: headache, flushing, sweating, nausea, chest pain, facial pressure, and numbness in the face and/or neck.

Gelatin, made by boiling the skin or connective tissue of animals, is used in the vaccines to protect it from freeze-drying and heat. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, all vaccine gelatin is porcine in origin, which means it comes from pigs.

Arginine is an amino acid, which contributes to heart health, wound healing, and maintaining immune and hormone function. Arginine occurs naturally in our bodies and in some foods, including red meat, dairy, wheat, seeds, and nuts.

Antibiotics in the Flu Vaccine

Gentamicin is an antibiotic used in the FluMist vaccine. According to the FDA, antibiotics are sometimes used during the vaccine manufacturing process to ensure that bacterial contamination does not occur.  Since the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, and eggs are not a sterile product, vaccine producers use gentamicin to decrease bacterial growth. Since the antibiotics are used in the manufacturing process, there are only trace or undetectable amounts actually present in the vaccine. Antibiotics that are likely to cause severe allergic reactions, like sulfa drugs and penicillins, are not used in vaccines.

FluMist Restrictions: Who Should Use the Live Vaccine Spray?

Healthcare providers restrict who can receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine. FluMist is only given to healthy people 2 to 49 years of age. People who cannot receive the FluMist vaccine include pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, diabetes, asthma, kidney failure, allergies to eggs or gelatin, or a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. If you are interested in getting the FluMist vaccine, you should talk with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Flu Vaccine: Injection or Nasal Spray?

Although the nasal-spray vaccine may contain some ingredients that you question, it does not contain any preservatives, like thimerosal, that are found in the flu shot. If you have any concerns regarding the ingredients in a vaccine, talk with your doctor.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Situation Update:Summary of Weekly FluView. (2013). Accessed January 28, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine. (2012). Accessed January 28, 2013.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Gelatin Allergies. (2011). Vaccine Education Center. Accessed January 28, 2013.

Zeratsky, K. Monosodium glutamate is it harmful? (2012). MayoClinic. Accessed January 28, 2013.

United States Food and Drug Administration. 2012-2013 FluMist. (2012). Accessed January 28, 2013.

United States Food and Drug Administration. Common Ingredients in U.S. Licensed Vaccines. (2011). Accessed January 28, 2013.

WebMD. Arginine Heart Benefits and Side Effects. (2012). Accessed January 28, 2013.

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