flu shotThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot every year for everyone 6 months old or older. For some high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, the recommendation is extremely urgent.

The flu shot, however, seems to be shrouded in mystery. Some people claim to get the flu only after getting the vaccine against it. Others experience allergic reactions. The risk of allergic reaction is said to be small but caution is advised for anyone with a known allergy to egg or gelatin.

The risk of an allergic reaction to egg is more commonly known, and the viral cultures used in the flu vaccine are grown in an egg-based medium and. Gelatin allergies are less well-known, however, perhaps because fewer people are allergic to gelatin than eggs. Gelatin is used as a stabilizer for the vaccine. Gelatin is a component of collagen. Collagen is the protein in connective tissue that keeps us wrinkle- and cellulite-free.

All animals produce collagen, and thus gelatin. Gelatin from cows, fish, and pigs is used in the manufacture of the flu vaccine. The vaccine comes in both nasal spray and injection form. Gelatin is used in both formulas.

Pregnant women are advised to get the flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine, for safest immunity. The nasal spray contains weakened flu viruses that may still be vigorous enough to cause illness in risk groups such as pregnant women. Influenza can harm fetal development so all pregnant women are urged to take only vaccine in injection (shot) form); it relies on dead viruses that cannot cause illness.

Gelatin is used in the production of colorful gelatin-based desserts, marshmallows, gummy bears, and many popular food products. If eating these foods causes your tongue to swell or your skin to itch with hives, you may have heightened sensitivity or an allergy to gelatin. Other symptoms of allergy include difficulty breathing, sneezing, and life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

People who have reason to think they might be allergic to eggs or gelatin should get tested for allergies to these elements before getting a flu vaccine. If an allergy test indicates a positive reaction, make sure the person administering the flu vaccine is a board-certified allergist who will keep you in the office for a while after vaccination to monitor and respond to any reactions that might develop.

In addition to protecting an expectant mother and her baby from the flu, the vaccine has been shown to lower a person’s risk of heart attack.

Source: Ellis, Marie. "Gelatin allergies and the flu shot: caution advised." Medical News Today. 10 Nov 2013. Web. Retrieved 19 Nov 2013.