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Should people with allergies get a flu vaccine?

FluToday, many of my colleagues took advantage of one of Stanford's free flu vaccination clinics. Since I'm feeling a bit under the weather - and I'm terrified of needles - I sat this particular vaccination clinic out.

Yet, my caution tinged with cowardliness brings up an interesting point: When should you forgo the flu vaccine? As discussed in this article from Medical News Today, one group of people that should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of flu vaccines are people with allergies such as gelatin.

From the article:

As flu vaccine coverage is on the rise in the U.S., experts from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) warn that individuals who are allergic to gelatin could have a mild to severe reaction to the flu vaccine.


"Gelatin is used in the flu shot, as well as other vaccines, as a stabilizer. Because it is found in the vaccine, those with a known allergy to gelatin can experience allergic reactions, such as hives, sneezing and difficulty breathing."

The article explains that a swollen tongue or itching after eating foods, such as gummy bears, that contain gelatin could signify a gelatin allergy. But, it is it a true allergy, or a food intolerance? President of the ACAAI, Richard Weber, MD, explains:

"Those who believe they might have an allergy should be tested and diagnosed by an allergist before taking extreme avoidance measures or skipping vaccinations. The flu shot is an important vaccine and can even be life-saving for individuals who are at an increased risk for severe side effects associated with the flu."

Previously: CDC: More U.S. adults need to get recommended vaccinationsFailure to vaccinate linked to pertussis deaths and Ask Stanford Med: Pediatric immunologist answers your questions about food allergy research
Photo by USACE Europe District

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