Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I’ve heard that the flu vaccine contains eggs. Does that mean that people with egg allergies can’t get the vaccine?
First things first: Yes, the flu vaccine does contain egg protein. That’s because the flu vaccine virus is grown in eggs. (The virus grows well in eggs, which are readily available.)
In people with egg allergies — which is a pretty common food allergy — exposure to eggs can cause an immune system reaction. So that’s why your health provider asks you if you have an egg allergy before giving you your flu vaccination each year.
But having a mild reaction to eggs doesn’t necessarily mean you should automatically skip the flu shot, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. This summer, the committee, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released new recommendations on flu vaccinations for people with egg allergies.
According to the committee, people who have had only a mild reaction such as hives after exposure to eggs may be able to receive the flu vaccine, as long as certain procedures are followed. For example, the committee said that such vaccinations should be carried out by providers familiar with egg allergies and that people getting the vaccine should be observed for at least 30 minutes afterward for signs of reaction. The recommendations don’t apply to the nasal flu vaccine, as it hasn’t been studied as much as the shot.
In short, if you have an egg allergy, you should talk to your health provider about whether you are a good candidate for the flu vaccine and what the risks are. Flu season is here and cases have been reported around the nation, so now’s the time to think about getting a flu vaccine. (It’s not too late!) And as always, don’t forget to tell your provider about any past reactions — egg-related or otherwise — before you get your vaccination.