Have you experienced an allergic reaction to a vaccine? If the reaction was severe, you may be understandably afraid to risk getting the flu vaccine this year. The good news is that even if you’re had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, you still may be able to get safely vaccinated against the flu.
Can You Still Be Vaccinated if You’re Allergic to Vaccines?
A new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology showed that getting a vaccination may still be safe for people who are allergic to vaccines as long as skin testing is done beforehand and additional precautions are taken when the vaccine is administered. Before being vaccinated, people with a history of an allergic reaction to vaccines should be seen by an allergist who can do skin testing to determine the specific vaccine component the body is reacting to. For most people the part of the vaccine causing the allergic reaction is a vaccine additive rather than the vaccine itself. Vaccines usually contain fillers such as latex, gelatin, or egg protein that can cause a reaction in some people. Once it can be determined what vaccine component is causing the allergy, that particular component can be avoided.
Can You Still Get the Flu Vaccine if You’re Allergic to Vaccines?
Allergy experts are now saying that even people who have had a past vaccine reaction or are allergic to eggs may be able to be safely vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus. People who have egg allergies have been discouraged from getting the flu vaccine since both the seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 flu vaccine contain small amounts of egg protein. But, skin testing can be done using components from the vaccines to see if an allergic reaction to the vaccine is likely to happen. If the skin reaction is negative, it’s unlikely that the vaccine will cause a problem. If the skin reaction is positive, it may still be possible to give the vaccine in small, graded doses rather than as a single injection. This should always done while under the care of an allergist since they can treat allergic reactions quickly in the office.
What About Serious Allergic Reactions to Vaccines?
Death from a vaccine allergic reaction is quite rare, and only one vaccine dose in a million causes a serious allergic reaction- which should be reassuring to people who are concerned about vaccination reactions.
Allergic Reactions to Vaccines: The Bottom Line?
If you have a history of allergic reaction to vaccines and would like to get the seasonal flu vaccine or the H1N1 vaccine, see an allergist for skin testing and find out if it’s safe for you to receive it. It may be worth it – particularly if you’re at high risk for flu complications due to other medical problems.