It is that time of the year when people roll up their sleeves at healthcare facilities everywhere so they can get a flu shot. One group has always been the exception: people with egg allergies.
Most flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), the flu vaccine actually poses very little risk of allergic reaction for people with an egg allergy.
Understanding Egg Allergies
Egg allergy is a sensitivity to egg protein. The ACAAI states that more than 600,000 people in the U.S. have egg allergies.
Roughly 70 percent of people outgrow egg allergies by age 16, but some people have egg allergies through adulthood. Reactions range from mild symptoms such as hives and skin rashes to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.
Because nearly every food contains eggs, people with food allergies must be very vigilant in reading labels and asking questions about the ingredients and preparation before eating foods prepared by other people.
Flu Vaccine’s Found to Be Relatively Safe for People with Egg Allergies
The ACAAI recommends flu shots for everyone, including people with egg allergies. Many studies that have been published over the last several years have shown that flu shots given to thousands of children with egg-allergies–even those with severe reactions to eggs–caused no reactions.
Research also suggests that risk of catching the flu is much greater than having a reaction from the vaccine. Adults and children with asthma are especially encouraged to get a flu shot because of their higher risk for dangerous flu-related complications.
You must tell your doctor, or healthcare professional administering the vaccine, that you have egg allergies before getting a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), people 18-49 years of age who have had severe allergic reactions to eggs may get the recombinant flu vaccine, or get a regular flu vaccine administered by a doctor who specializes in the management of severe allergic conditions. People with mild reaction to eggs may get the regular flu vaccine with additional safety measures in place.
The ACAAI recommends that healthcare providers observe patients with mild allergic reactions to eggs for 30 minutes after vaccination to monitor for any reactions. Patients with more severe reactions should have their flu shots administered only by an allergist, also with a 30-minute observation period following vaccination.
In addition to vaccination, there are steps you can take every day to minimize your risk of catching the flu, such as frequently washing your hands and avoiding contact with sick people as much as possible. If you get sick, stay home so you do not spread the flu to others.