Q. Our 20-month-old son is allergic to eggs. Because he has asthma, we would like him to get a flu vaccine. However, our doctor has told us in the past he cannot have a flu vaccine because of his egg allergy. Is there anything else we can do to protect him against the flu?
A. Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It is highly contagious and seasonal, classically peaking during the winter months. Although most cases are mild, influenza can result in hospitalization or death. There were 149 confirmed pediatric flu-related deaths during the 2012-2013 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children younger than 2 or those with other health conditions such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes carry a higher risk for complications from the flu.
In the past, people with egg allergy were cautioned against receiving the flu vaccine because the vaccine may contain a tiny amount of egg protein. However, this advice has gradually become outdated. Children with an egg allergy should receive the flu vaccine especially children with other risk factors such as asthma.
Depending on the severity of the egg allergy, the current recommendation advises 30 minutes of observation in a physicians office following the vaccine or that the vaccine be given under the guidance of an allergist.
A recent study from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology supports the idea that flu vaccines are safe for people with egg allergy. In this study, 143 participants who had a history of anaphylaxis to egg ingestion received the flu vaccine without complication.
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