It can be frightening and scary news when you or your loved one is diagnosed with an egg allergy. You educate yourself about ingredient lists, make sure you know safe versus unsafe foods, and always have your epinephrine injector close by. You become an expert on all things “egg.” You are finally feeling comfortable with handling things, when all of a sudden, IT’S FLU SEASON!
You’ve read that most influenza vaccines are produced by growing influenza virus in embryonated chicken eggs, and therefore contain trace amounts of egg protein. It stands to reason then, that if you have an egg allergy you could have an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. You ask your friends, your pharmacist, and even your primary care doctor, but nobody seems to give you a straight answer to the burning question: is the flu vaccine safe in people with egg allergies?
Well fear not, there is a correct answer: YES! The influenza vaccine is considered safe for those with any type of egg allergy. But, don’t take my word for it, take it from the CDC:
“People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza (flu) vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) that is otherwise appropriate. People who have a history of severe egg allergy (those who have had any symptom other than hives after exposure to egg) should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.” (www.cdc.gov)
Now this recommendation is not just based on guess work. It is heavily rooted in data from the millions who have previously received the flu vaccine. In a review of published data from 2012, including 4,172 egg-allergic patients (513 of whom reported a history of severe allergic reaction after eating egg), there were no noted occurrences of anaphylaxis following administration of the flu vaccine, though some milder reactions did occur (www.cdc.gov).
Despite the evidence suggesting that egg allergic people can safely receive the flu vaccine, it is not safe for everyone. Those people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a previous dose are recommended to avoid it.
When you are not sure if you’ve had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, or you are extremely nervous about receiving the vaccine safely (egg allergy or not), Allergy Partners can help. Our board-certified Allergists can counsel you on whether it is safe for you to receive the flu vaccine. When necessary, we can also offer testing to components of the vaccine and in office administration under the direct supervision of the physician to make sure you receive the vaccine safely.
Remember, the flu can be deadly or cause serious harm to you or your loved ones. The CDC recommends that all people 6 months or older receive the influenza vaccine annually. Don’t let fear or misinformation stand in your way. Talk to your local Allergy Partners to make sure you are protected this season!
By Dr. Jonathan Romeo
Allergy Partners of the Triangle