Should You Get a Flu Shot If You Have an Egg Allergy?

Eggs
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For many years, flu shots were not recommended for people with egg allergies. The vaccine is grown in chicken eggs and it was thought that this could cause a serious allergic reaction in people with egg allergies. For this reason, flu vaccines were avoided by people with egg allergies. However, current research and data show that the risk of this type of reaction, even in people with significant egg allergies, is extremely low.

Current Recommendations

Starting with the 2016-2017 flu season, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with a history of egg allergy be vaccinated against the flu.

  • Those with an egg allergy and a history of hives or rash only can be vaccinated just like everyone else. No special precautions need to be taken.
  • People with a history of severe allergic reaction to eggs such as anaphylaxis, swelling of the face, tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, repeated vomiting, or lightheadedness should also be vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine should be given by a licensed health care provider who is trained to spot the signs of a severe allergic reaction and can manage those symptoms if they occur. This can be at an inpatient or outpatient facility, as long as the person giving the vaccine meets these qualifications.
  • Anyone that has experienced an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past should not receive one in the future.

    What Changed and Why?

    Recent studies have shown that the chance of allergic reaction after a vaccine is incredibly low. According to the CDC, "In a Vaccine Safety Datalink study, there were ten cases of anaphylaxis after more than 7.4 million doses of inactivated flu vaccine, trivalent (IIV3) given without other vaccines, (rate of 1.35 per one million doses).

    Most of these cases of anaphylaxis were not related to the egg protein present in the vaccine. CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continue to review available data regarding anaphylaxis cases following flu vaccines."

    This means that out of 7.4 million people that received a flu vaccine, only ten people experienced anaphylaxis—the most serious type of allergic reaction—and most of those were not related to an egg allergy.

    This is a case where the benefit outweighs the risk. The chance of having a true, serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine is miniscule. The benefits are far greater. Although it is still possible to get the flu after you have been vaccinated, the chances of having severe symptoms and complications are much lower. Most people who get the flu after having received the fu vaccine experience a shorter duration of the illness and milder symptoms.

    The recommendation that people with egg allergies be vaccinated by allergists or doctors with specialized experience in recognizing severe allergic reactions and be monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination has changed as well. Most anyone who is trained to give vaccines should be able to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction.

    If you are concerned about the possibility of a reaction, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure the person giving the vaccine knows what to watch for and what to do if a reaction occurs. Because a majority of life-threatening allergic reactions occur soon after vaccination, there is no need to wait 30 minutes for observation after receiving a flu vaccine. However, if you get a vaccine and start to experience the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. Use your Epi-Pen if you have one and call 911 or get to the Emergency Room.

    A Word From Verywell

    Nearly everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated against the flu each year.

    Although it may seem like a hassle to go get a flu shot each fall, you could be saving a life. It may not be your own if you aren't at high risk for complications from the flu, but if you protect yourself, you could protect others as well. By preventing the flu in your own house, you could avoid spreading it to someone that may be at high risk and could become seriously ill or die from it.

    If you are allergic to eggs and you aren't sure what to do about getting your flu vaccine, talk to your health care provider. There are plenty of options and very few reasons to skip out on this important vaccine.

    Sources: 

    Flu Vaccine and People with Egg Allergies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/egg-allergies.htm. Published September 2, 2016. 

    Get Vaccinated | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/vaccinations.htm. 

    Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines | Health Professionals | Seasonal Influenza (Flu). http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/index.htm. 

    Vaccine Effectiveness - How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm. Updated February 15, 2017.

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