-- Alan Mozes
FRIDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The flu vaccine is safe for
children with food allergies, experts say, as long as precautions
That assessment is being offered by a team of researchers at the
Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, who noted that up to
3 percent of American kids harbor an allergy to eggs, raising
concerns among parents who worry that the egg-based flu vaccine may
"Some parents are understandably concerned about allergic reactions to the flu vaccine and in the past may have opted against it, but the risk of catching the flu far outweighs the risk for an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and even children with egg allergies can be immunized safely," Dr. Robert Wood, director of Allergy & Immunology at Hopkins Children's, said in a news release from the center.
The issue of allergy risk is perhaps more front and center this
year than in the past, given that this flu season U.S. health
officials for the first time have decided to call for the
vaccination of all children 6 months of age and up.
Previously, only children with high-risk medical conditions --
such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or neurological disorders
and/or suppressed immune systems -- were advised to get a flu
The dilemma is further aggravated by the fact that while some
vaccines do come in an allergen-free form, the flu vaccine is not
Nevertheless, Wood said that most children with egg allergies
can be vaccinated, as long as they undergo a skin-prick allergy
test first to assess the severity of their allergy and to look for
signs of antibodies against either the gelatin or egg proteins that
are often found in vaccines.
Anti-allergy drugs, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids,
are available and can be given pre-vaccination to minimize the risk
of a reaction, he added.
Wood first teamed up with Hopkins pediatrician Dr. Neal Halsey
to outline a safe approach towards the flu shot/allergy issue two
years ago. At that time, the team advocated vaccination for almost
all allergic kids as long as they undergo allergy testing, as well
as close post-inoculation monitoring for a few hours by a
The researchers noted that serious allergic reactions, which
typically manifest very shortly (within minutes to a couple of
hours) after vaccination, are actually extremely rare, occurring in
just one or two patients per million.
That said, parents and physicians need to know that children
with a prior history of allergic reactions are more prone to suffer
future ones, and Wood stressed that those children already known to
have a severe egg allergy should always be seen by a pediatric
allergist before being immunized.
Immediate allergic reactions typically have a wide range of
symptoms, including hives, swelling, wheezing, coughing, low blood
pressure, vomiting and diarrhea. At times, full-blown anaphylaxis
-- a life-threatening allergic reaction -- can occur, according to
background information in the news release.
Delayed reactions manifesting days or weeks after the fact are
usually not serious or life-threatening if they are diagnosed and
In that context, Wood said that those children with mild or
unconfirmed allergies are usually good to go for a
pediatrician-applied flu shot.
And now is a good time to book that appointment because Friday
marks the unofficial start of the 2010-2011 flu season.
For more on the flu vaccine and children, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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