If you’ve had reactions from eggs or gelatin, you may be allergic to routine vaccines. Learn how to minimize the reaction.
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A vaccine allergy is an extremely rare type of allergy, with only one to two serious allergic reactions being reported per million vaccinations given. But when a vaccine allergy does occur, it can be very serious, even life-threatening.
What Is a Vaccine Allergy?
Researchers believe that most people who have a vaccine allergy have an allergic sensitivity to one of two common vaccine ingredients: gelatin or egg protein.
Gelatin is used to help preserve viral components of the following vaccines:
Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis /DTaP (Tripedia)
Influenza (Fluzone, Flumist)
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR II, Priorix)
Rubella (Meruvax II)
Egg proteins are used to produce some vaccines including:
Measles, mumps, and rubella
If you are allergic to eggs, or have had an allergic reaction after eating a gelatin-containing food, you are at higher risk of having a vaccine allergy.
Symptoms of a Vaccine Allergy
Symptoms of a severe vaccine allergy may include:
Low blood pressure
Increased heart rate
These symptoms usually come on quickly, within a few minutes or a few hours after receiving the vaccination. They are signs of anaphylaxis, which is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. If you, or anyone around you, experiences signs of anaphylaxis, contact emergency medical personnel immediately.
Other common reactions to vaccines, such as fever, pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site, or a mild rash, usually come on later and are usually not serious. But contact your doctor if you have any worrisome symptoms after receiving a vaccination.
Managing a Vaccine Allergy
Since people with a vaccine allergy become sensitized after being exposed to the allergen the first time, they are at high risk for future allergic reactions to vaccines. Subsequent allergic reactions to vaccines are usually more serious than the first.
Talk with your doctor if you have had symptoms of an allergic reaction after a vaccination, or if you are concerned that you may be at risk of having an allergic reaction from a vaccine. An allergist or immunologist may perform a skin prick or blood test to determine if you have a vaccine-associated allergy.
People who have a vaccine allergy can usually still get their recommended vaccinations. Methods for giving vaccinations to people with a vaccine allergy may involve:
Using an alternative form of the vaccine that you are not allergic to
Taking antihistamine or corticosteroid medications before your vaccination to help prevent or decrease an allergic reaction
Getting vaccinated under the supervision of your doctor in the presence of lifesaving medical equipment (for example, at an equipped clinic or hospital)
Testing for immunity to the disease being vaccinated against, and forgoing the vaccination if you already have immunity
Vaccinations are important for your health and the health of those around you. If you are concerned about a vaccine allergy, talk with your doctor, who can recommend a vaccination schedule that will be safe and effective for you.