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People With Egg Allergies Can Now Get the Flu Shot

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

If you're allergic to eggs, you no longer have to skip the flu shot

We all know we're supposed to get a flu shot every year, but for people with egg allergies, it hasn't been that easy. Rather than just walking into pretty much any pharmacy or doctor's office and getting one, those allergic to eggs had to make an appointment with an allergist and get a specialized version of the vaccine. But according to new research and guidelines from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, that is no longer the case.

In a paper published on Dec. 19 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the authors said the flu shot is safe for those with egg allergies and recommended that they receive the vaccination.

More: When Is the Best Time of Year to Get the Flu Shot?

“When someone gets a flu shot, health care providers often ask if they are allergic to eggs,” says allergist Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, chair of the association's food allergy committee and lead author of the new guidelines in a statement. “We want health care providers and people with egg allergy to know there is no need to ask this question anymore, and no need to take any special precautions. The overwhelming evidence since 2011 has shown that a flu shot poses no greater risk to those with egg allergy than those without.”

To reach this conclusion, the association reviewed dozens of studies involving thousands of patients with egg allergies who have received a flu shot and did not have allergic reactions — including hundreds with life-threatening egg allergy. Their findings and new guidelines are consistent with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which emphasize the safety and importance of everyone — including those with egg allergies — receiving their annual flu shots.

Specifically, the health organizations all found that potential harms of the flu — which for some can be life-threatening — outweighed any potential risks, especially since there is no proven record of people with egg allergies having bad reactions to the flu shot.

“There are hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths in the United States every year because of the flu, most of which could be prevented with a flu shot,” allergist Dr. John Kelso, a member of the allergy association and coauthor of the new guidelines says in a statement. “Egg allergy primarily affects young children, who are also particularly vulnerable to the flu. It’s very important that we encourage everyone, including children with egg allergy, to get a flu shot.”

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So why was the recommendation that people with egg allergies skip the flu shot made in the first place? Turns out, most viral strains used to create influenza vaccines come predominately from birds, Dr. Randy Bergen, a pediatrician, infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek Medical Center and the clinical lead for the Kaiser Permanente flu vaccine program in Northern California, tells Healthline.

If you're allergic to eggs, you no longer have to skip the flu shot
Image: SuperStock/Getty Images
Eggs are used in the vaccine-manufacturing process to incubate the viral strains, Bergen explains, which leaves trace amounts of egg in the resulting flu shot. But, he points out, the amount of egg proteins in the vaccine each year has been decreasing. The new guidelines reinforce the fact that the flu vaccine is safe and effective for everyone — even those with egg allergies.
And just as a reminder: The flu is no joke. It's not some 24-hour stomach bug or common cold and can totally knock you out for weeks — even if you've had a flu shot. Since 2010, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually.
Although flu season is well underway (it starts in October and can last until May), it's still not too late to get your vaccination. And if you've been putting it off because you have an egg allergy and had to go to a specialist, you have no more excuses.
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