Flu season is upon us. Time to locate a flu shot clinic or contact your primary care doctor to set up an appointment.
You may be asking yourself, “Can I or my child get a flu shot if either of us have an allergy to eggs?” The answer used to be no, but now the answer is yes.
The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older receive a yearly flu shot. There are various flu shots available, making understanding which to get a bit more complicated.
It is important to consult your doctor to clarify which flu vaccine options are available to you based on your age, allergy status and general health.
Basically there are flu shots that have protection against three flu strains (trivalent) or four flu strains (quadrivalent). The CDC does not recommend one type over the other.
Some are non-live virus shots (inactivated). There are certain brands that are only used in children who are 3 years of age and older, versus those for infants who are 6 months of age and older. Check with your pediatrician.
Live virus (attenuated or weakened) FluMist® nasal spray is only for those who are healthy, non-pregnant, aged 2 through 49 years.
And, new for 2013-2014 for those with egg allergies, two trivalent vaccines that do not use chicken eggs in their production. One is called Flucelvax® that uses cultured animal cells and is available for those aged 18 years and up.
The other, called FluBlok®, does not use the influenza virus or chicken eggs in its production and is available for persons aged 18 years through 49 years.
The risks and side effects of both new vaccines are described to be in line with regular flu shots, though the CDC says that there is no safety data regarding their use on pregnant women or nursing mothers.
You may be wondering -- what about kids with egg allergies? I’ll get to that.
The CDC makes a point of separating those people who have some sensitivity to eggs versus those who are out right allergic.
The CDC guidelines state:
- If a person can eat a lightly cooked egg, they can have the regular flu shot.
- If a person develops hives after eating eggs or food with eggs and are aged 18-49, they can have a regular flu shot but should be observed for 30 minutes afterward.
- If a person experiences more severe reactions after eating eggs such as wheezing, low blood pressure, nausea/vomiting or needs epinephrine, they should only receive a Flucelvax® or FluBlok® vaccine and be managed by a doctor with experience in allergy treatments.
- If a person has had a severe reaction to a flu shot, regardless of what component was thought to cause the reaction, they should not get future flu vaccines.
Now back to kids with egg allergies.
Sciencedaily.com reported that “the current recommendation from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is to observe children allergic to eggs for 30 minutes after a flu shot. Also to have the shot under the care of a primary care provider, if the reaction to eating eggs is only hives, or an allergist, if the reaction to eating eggs is more serious.”
Several studies have monitored the reactions of children who have egg allergies to flu shots. The most recent was published in the October 2013 issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the official journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
“Over the last several years, thousands of egg allergic children, including those with a severe life-threatening reaction to eating eggs, have received injectable influenza vaccine (IIV) as a single dose without a reaction," allergist John Kelso, MD, fellow of the ACAAI said to Sciencedaily.com.
Kelso explained that most egg allergies only involve the skin, and the benefits of the vaccination are felt to outweigh the risks. By the age of 16, approximately 70 percent of kids outgrow their egg allergies.
A previous Sciencedaily.com article reported that a similar 2010-2012 study about children with egg allergies receiving flu vaccines had the same results.
Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., M.B.A., MSc, lead author of that study and assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital said that approximately 2 percent of children have egg allergies so a significant number of children do not get the flu vaccine.
He hoped that the Michigan study, which collected data from seven institutions including University of Michigan, would help put parents' fears to rest and hopefully help more kids avoid the flu.
Influenza A is responsible for 21,156 annual hospitalizations of children younger than 5 years of age, reported Sciencedaily.com.
Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Safety: A Summary for Clinicians. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Summary* Recommendations: Prevention and Control of Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—(ACIP)—United States, 2013-14. Influenza Prevention and Control Recommendations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Flublok Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Egg allergic children now have no barriers to flu shot. ScienceDaily.com, 1 Oct. 2013. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Children with egg allergies can safely receive flu vaccine, multi-center study finds. ScienceDaily.com, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith