Because the influenza vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein, people with egg allergies were once advised to avoid it.
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“Now, however, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend avoiding flu shots only if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine itself,” says infectious disease specialist Steven Gordon, MD.
If you’ve had a mild or severe allergic reaction to eggs
Here is what the CDC advises when you’re allergic to eggs:
- If eggs cause only hives (raised, red, itchy skin bumps), you can safely get the flu vaccine appropriate for your age and health status anywhere.
- If eggs cause swelling, trouble breathing, lightheadedness or recurrent vomiting — or if you’ve had to rely on an emergency intervention (like your Epi-Pen®) — you can get a flu shot, but it must be in a medical setting. And the vaccine must be supervised by a provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.
That’s because your risks of getting the flu (which can lead to illness, hospitalization and even death) outweigh your risks of an allergic reaction to the egg in the vaccine.
“People with an egg allergy who get the flu vaccine are at no greater risk for a systemic allergic reaction than those without egg allergy,” explains allergist David Lang, MD.
If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine
However, you should not get a flu shot if the flu vaccine itself ever caused you to have a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Because anaphylaxis progresses quickly and can be fatal, the risk of a repeat episode from getting the vaccine far outweigh your risks of getting the flu.
It may be reassuring to know that just 1.35 out of one million people have experienced one of these severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine.
And their anaphylaxis was most often triggered by an allergy to one of the other vaccine components, not to the egg.
“The bottom line is, there is no reason for someone with a suspected egg allergy to not get the flu vaccine,” says Dr. Lang.