Flu Shot “Egg-cellent” for Allergic Kids

Flu vaccine is safe for children who are severely allergic to eggs

(RxWiki News) While the flu vaccine lowers chances of getting the flu, there have been concerns about giving it to egg-allergic children. This group now appears to have no reaction from the treatment.

Historically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautioned that children with severe egg allergies should not get the seasonal flu vaccine because the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs. A new study reports that egg-allergic children can safely receive a single dose of the seasonal influenza vaccine.

"Get the flu vaccine to protect yourself."

Matthew Greenhawt, MD, author of the study and assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, examined data on child patients who had severe egg allergies and received the trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine (TIV).

TIV is grown in embryonated chicken eggs and contains residual amounts of ovalbumin, a major egg allergen.

Dr. Greenhawt and his team studied two groups of participants with the average patient age of 12. In one group of 31 children, 45 percent had a history of anaphylaxis after egg ingestion. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes the airways tighten.

Investigators also retrospectively evaluated 112 patients. Just over three quarters of these children had a history of anaphylaxis after egg ingestion.

All participants received TIV without developing an allergic reaction. After weighing reactions of children who received a single dose of the vaccine vs. those who received a split dose, authors determined that a single dose is well-tolerated and splitting the dose is unnecessary. Doctors would often split the dose to minimize the risk of allergic reactions.

Influenza A is responsible for 21,156 annual hospitalizations of children younger than five years old. The CDC reports that flu activity recently has been high and widespread across the nation. As of mid-January, the total number of flu-associated pediatric deaths was 29 for 2012-13.

As many as one-third of children with food allergies have asthma, and this group is particularly susceptible to influenza.

Milind Pansare, MD, MBBS, Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Allergy/Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan and dailyRx Contributing Expert said "Influenza particularly in young children can be problematic.Increased morbidities are seen in asthmatic children with influenza. Seasonal influenza vaccination is an important preventive measure to reduce morbidities and spread of this illness.This study and many others published recently will help improve the influenza immunization rate particularly in the egg allergic patients and also alleviate anxiety for many parents".

Citing this study, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology this month announced that administration of the flu vaccine is safe even in children with a history of a severe allergic reaction to eggs.

Dr. Greenhawt says the only precaution needed is that egg-allergic children should be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination in a medical setting so that a reaction could be recognized and treated immediately.

“Because the prevalence of egg allergy in children is approximately 2 percent, we know there is a significant number of children who don’t get the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Greenwalt. “It’s crucial that children get a vaccine to avoid the flu, especially this year as we’ve seen such an increase in cases and severity. The benefits outweigh the risks.  This study can put parents’ fears to rest.”

The study was published in January in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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Review Date: 
January 26, 2013