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The Link Between Egg Allergy and the Flu Shot

  The flu season is fast approaching, which means it’s almost time for the annual flu shot. Getting vaccinated is the best defense against the flu, and we have to protect ourselves and others from getting sick with the influenza virus, and it’s important to do so every year since the strains of the virus tend to differ slightly each season. 

Luckily, allergic reactions to the flu shot are extremely rare, only one in every 1.13 million people will develop a severe allergy. Having some mild effects, such as soreness in the muscles or a low-grade fever, is not uncommon and does not indicate an allergic reaction. However, there is one group in particular that is at a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction - those who are allergic to eggs. If you have an egg allergy, you might need to take certain precautions to discuss the shot with your doctor.

This is how you identify an allergic reaction to the flu shot and what you need to know about its relation to egg allergies. 

Related: Flu Shots and Alzheimer’s: Is There a Connection?

The link between flu shots and egg allergies

According to the CDC, the symptoms of an allergic reaction after the flu shot might include:
  • Facial swelling around the eyes and mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Appearing pale
  • Hives
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing.
People with Egg Allergies Are at higher Risk of Allergic Reaction to Flu Shot, woman getting vaccinated
After getting the flu shot, it is recommended to monitor your reaction. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you must contact your health care provider immediately. As we previously mentioned, the most common reason for people having an allergic reaction to the vaccine is an egg allergy. Though there are no eggs in the active component of the shot, it is manufactured with small amounts of egg protein. It could also be due to other components, like preservatives, however, that is so rare a condition that it shouldn’t deter you from getting the shot, according to Ryan Steele, DO, board-certified allergist-immunologist and internist at Yale Medicine.

Even if you suffer from a known egg allergy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you must avoid the flu shot altogether. The CDC instructions say you can still get the shot at your local clinic if you can eat lightly cooked eggs (for example, scrambled eggs) without having a reaction or if you only get hives after eating eggs, without experiencing any other symptoms. 

Related: 7 Silent Signs That Point to an Undiagnosed Allergy

People with Egg Allergies Are at higher Risk of Allergic Reaction to Flu Shot, eggs
If your allergic reactions to eggs were more severe and have included respiratory distress, lightheadedness, swelling under the skin (angioedema), or recurrent episodes of vomiting and you decide to get the vaccine, you must do so under the careful supervision of a healthcare provider in a medical setting. The same is true if you have ever required an EpiPen or emergency medical help after eating eggs.
The only case where you must avoid the flu shot altogether is if you previously had a severe allergic reaction to the flu shot itself. To be extra safe, there will be two egg-free variations of the vaccine for the 2020-2021 flu season, so do ask your local clinic about them if you happen to have a sensitivity to eggs. 

Is there a connection between Guillain-Barre syndrome and the flu shot?

Guillain-Barre Syndrom (GBS) is a condition in which your immune system attacks the nerves in your own body. It manifests itself through a sensation of tingling or numbness that starts in the lower body and works its way up.

People with Egg Allergies Are at higher Risk of Allergic Reaction to Flu Shot, man with cold or flu

It is a widely-spread belief that GBS is a common reaction to the flu shot, but that is a myth. In reality, there is hardly a connection between GBS and an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine; there are only one to two cases of GBS per million shots administered. "You are more likely to get GBS from the flu itself rather than the vaccination," says Dr. Steele.

The bottom line is that the benefits of the flu shot highly outweigh the risks, according to the CDC and several other medical sources. Yet, it is important to be aware of the facts and always consult a professional if you’re in doubt.

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