The flu shot is a vaccine attempting to prevent people from getting the flu, especially those at highest risk of a common illness becoming serious. Most doctors and pharmacists have not recommended the flu shot for those with an egg allergy because the culture for the vaccine has traditionally been grown on egg whites. A new study, however, may change that.
Flu season runs from October to May and results in millions of Americans getting sick every year. Flu shot effectiveness is not 100 percent, but even when the flu strain spreading is not the one the year's vaccine was made to prevent, the flu vaccine can often reduce symptoms. Most flu shots have contained traces of ovalbumin, the protein in chicken eggs that most often triggers allergic reactions to those with an egg allergy.
A recent analysis considered 28 studies of flu shot egg allergy reactions and found that reactions are extremely rare.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) has issued new guidelines through its Food Allergy Committee regarding the flu shot and egg allergies. They recommend that those with an egg allergy see an allergy specialist to receive the flu vaccine. Small amounts of the vaccine are created annually without use of eggs and can be obtained by allergists. Those whose allergies are not as severe may be able to have the regular flu vaccine without adverse effects.
They also recommend that longer-than-normal observation of the flu shot recipient be undertaken when an egg allergy is suspected or diagnosed. The committee also recommends that flu vaccine administered outside of an allergy specialist's office be given only after having asked the patient whether an egg allergy exists.
It is expected that these new findings will increase the portion of the population which receives the flu vaccine annually.