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Can a child with an egg allergy get the flu vaccine?

An allergist can help you determine if your child can get a flu vaccine if he or she has an egg allergy.

If you're holding out on getting your child vaccinated for the flu because of an egg allergy, you might not need to! In general, almost all egg-allergic patients can receive the vaccine, after evaluation by an allergist.

Most flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein. There is sometimes anxiety about administering the flu vaccine to people who are allergic to egg, especially children and pregnant women. Some primary care providers prefer not to give the vaccine in these cases.

With the administration of the vaccine, there is a consent form asking about egg allergy. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone get the vaccine, and that those with egg allergy be observed for 30 minutes after it's given to make sure there is no reaction. In general, if a past reaction was severe, this observation should be completed in an allergist's office. If the reaction was mild, the primary care provider may be able to give the vaccine and observe the patient.

About 80 percent of children with egg allergies grow out of them by adulthood. For those who don't, Flublok, a new recombinant vaccine, contains no egg. It is given only to people aged 18-49, so it's not for kids but, it is an alternative for adults with egg allergy.

Each year, the flu vaccine is developed based on the most recent historical data about circulating viruses. In some years, the vaccine is well-matched with the viruses in circulation and is up to 90 percent effective in preventing the flu. In other years, such as the 2012-13 flu season, it's not as well-matched. Last year, the vaccine was about 60 percent effective.

In addition to egg, there are other components in the flu vaccine to which a person can be allergic, such as gelatin. If a patient has an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine, it is much more likely due to one of these other components and not likely due to egg protein. If someone has had a previous reaction to a flu vaccine, they should seek advice from an allergist.

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