Have you gotten your flu shot yet? These days, it’s more important than ever to be vaccinated.
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However, if you’re someone with specific food allergies, like an allergy to eggs, you may have been told in the past not to get the influenza vaccine. Why? The flu vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein, so people with egg allergies were once advised to avoid it.
“Now, however, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding flu shots only if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine itself,” says infectious disease specialist Steven Gordon, MD.
Allergist David Lang, MD adds, “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.”
Read on to find out everything you need to know about safely getting the flu shot if you’re allergic to eggs.
If you’ve had a mild or severe allergic reaction to eggs
Here is what the CDC advises if 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.
Keep in mind that your risk of getting the flu (which can lead to illness, hospitalization and even death) outweigh your risk of an allergic reaction to the egg protein in the vaccine.
If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine
“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,” says Dr. Gordon. Again, this can happen whether you have an allergy to eggs or not.
Because anaphylaxis progresses quickly and can be fatal, the risk of a repeat episode from getting the vaccine far outweighs your risk of getting the flu.
It’s important to understand the risks that come with any vaccine, but you can rest easy knowing that just 1.35 out of one million people have experienced one of these severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine.
The other piece of good news is that among this small population, the 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.
The best thing you can do to put yourself in a safe situation is to inform the medical professional administering your flu shot of your allergies ahead of time.