November 12th, 2009
01:41 PM ET

H1N1 vaccine safe with egg allergy?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Kali in Florida:

My 4-year-old daughter has egg and peanut allergies. Can she still take the H1N1 vaccine? If not what are her choices. I've been getting conflicting answers.


Kali thanks for writing in. We’ve received several questions like yours since the H1N1 vaccine became available. Let me start by saying that if your daughter has a true egg allergy, and not just a sensitivity, then she can not have the H1N1 or the seasonal flu vaccine. The two types of H1N1 vaccine, the shot and the nasal spray, are made with eggs so it is not recommended for people with severe egg allergies.

However, allergists we spoke with said people with mild reactions to eggs can get vaccinated. Keep in mind that the amount of egg protein in a vaccine is often less than you would find in most baked goods. So if your daughter has been able to eat bread or cake, she may have a more mild allergy.

Consider going to an allergist and ask about getting a skin-prick test. The allergist will have a diluted and non-diluted version of the vaccine. Their first step will be to do the skin-prick test with the undiluted version. If your daughter does not break out in hives or have a strong reaction, then she can have a stronger test with a small, diluted injection. If your child doesn’t have a strong reaction to that test, then her allergy may not be severe and your allergist may give her a flu shot.

If your child does have a strong reaction and your doctor believes she shouldn’t get the flu shot, then talk with your health care provider about strategies for keeping her healthy. These steps are basic hygiene, such as washing hands for the count of singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice and staying away from sick friends plus, avoid wiping your eyes and touching your face if possible.

I hope this helps and your daughter has a flu-free season

Filed under: Allergies • Expert Q&A • H1N1 Flu • H1N1 Flu Vaccine

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.