Flu season is upon us and it’s poised to spread like wildfire once again. Patients who are allergic to eggs want to be protected from the affects of the flu, but worry about the risk of anaphylaxis from the ingredients in the vaccine. Those of us with an egg allergy face the same challenge each fall: Can we safely get a flu vaccine?
Concern about egg allergy and the flu vaccine is one of the many myths that surround vaccines that we can easily dispel. YES, you can get your flu shot even if you have an egg allergy. The amount of egg protein that might be in the shot is too little to trigger a severe reaction according to allergists and the CDC. If you also have asthma, it becomes even more important to get vaccinated as asthma can lead to more discomfort and serious complications.
Another myth worth dispelling: You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The vaccine does not contain a live virus; the live virus used to produce the vaccine is killed, broken up, and purified to make the vaccine. This means, the flu shot does not have any ingredient in it that can make you sick or spread the virus as was previously thought. The components of the vaccine allow your immune system to form antibodies that will be ready to attack should you be exposed to the real thing.
A Little History
Vaccines have been produced using egg for more than 70 years.
When the flu vaccine was first introduced in the early 2000s, it contained a small amount of egg protein. At that time, doctors were concerned that those with an egg allergy might have a reaction. They were particularly worried that the nasal spray delivery method might overwhelm the immune system and trigger a response. For that reason, they used to recommend the injectable flu vaccine followed by a 15-30 minute observation period for anyone with an egg allergy.
Where We Are Today
Things are different today. Although the flu vaccine still contains a very small amount of egg protein (ovalbumin), studies have examined the use of both nasal and injectable flu vaccine in allergic and non-allergic patients and have recorded almost no reaction for those with an egg allergy. In fact, the scientific community has noted that only 1.31 people in 1 million will react. That’s 0.000131% for perspective. You have better odds of being hit by lightning. That’s great news!
There are some who react to vaccines. In the last 10 years, there have been several studies that have shown that most of these reactions are caused by another component in the shots, not the trace amount of egg.
As such, the CDC encourages those with an egg allergy to get the flu vaccine and no longer recommends an observation period. Now, you can get your flu shot and be on your merry way!
Severe Reaction to Eggs in the Past?
No worries! The CDC still recommends patients with a history of severe reaction get a flu shot, but they suggest doing so in a medically supervised environment. That could be at a clinic, doctor’s office, hospital, outpatient facility or anywhere else where healthcare professionals can respond to an allergic reaction in the unlikely event one should occur.
The CDC defines a severe reaction as any symptom other than hives, particularly cardiovascular (fainting, lightheadedness, etc), respiratory (wheezing, coughing, etc) as well as any reaction requiring epinephrine.
- Doctors recommend that patients with an egg allergy get their flu shot.
- If you have an egg allergy, the chances of having a reaction to the flu vaccine are incredibly low.
- Both the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine are safe for those with egg allergy.
- Most patients with egg allergy no longer need to be monitored following their vaccine unless instructed by their doctor.
- **If you have had a severe reaction to egg, be sure to get your flu shot in an inpatient or outpatient facility.**
- The flu vaccine protects patients from serious illness.
- If you have asthma, the flu shot is important to keep you from experiencing complications from the flu.
- **If you have reacted to the flu vaccine in the past, talk to your healthcare provider before getting your next shot.**
For more information, please see the CDC’s page Flu Vaccine and People with Egg Allergies.
Symptoms of the Flu
Should you experience any of the following symptoms, please stay home and call your doctor.
Symptoms of the flu – which range from uncomfortable to dangerous – can vary:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, *this is more common in children than adults