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What do gummy bears and marshmallows have to do with flu shots?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
If you are allergic to gummy bears you might have a flu shot allergy too.

Experts at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting are urging caution to people about taking the flu shot who are allergic to gelatin. If you get itchy from eating gummy bears or marshmallows you might also be allergic to the ingredient in the flu shot.

Gelatin in flu shot could lead to serious allergy

Stephanie Albin, MD, an allergist and ACAAI member said in a press release gelatin in flu shots could mean hives, difficulty breathing, sneezing, itching and even severe anaphylactic reaction for people allergic to the ingredient that is used in the influenza vaccine as a stabilizer.

If you think you might be allergic to gelatin that is found in many products including vitamins and other pharmaceutical products in addition to gummy bears, marshmallows, some yogurts and some mini wheat cereal you should undergo allergy testing.

Richard Weber, M.D., ACAAI president suggests testing is the best way to know for sure if you are allergic to gelatin. He warns many people mistake food intolerance for allergies. He adds it’s important not to skip your flu shot that can be life-saving for anyone at high risk for flu complications,

Allergens that can be found in gelatin include cow, fish and pig proteins.

Another note about getting your flu shot is that many people think they can’t take the vaccine if they are allergic to eggs. Last month the ACAAI offered guidelines for giving the flu vaccine that can still be safely administered even in divided doses.

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Allergy myths debunked

The ACAAI also offers the following information to help sort out fact from fiction about allergies and allergy testing:

  • There is much false information on the internet that can lead people to skip their vaccines in addition to avoiding certain foods and medical tests from fears of gluten allergy, iodine and other substances, which can be damaging to health.
  • Home allergy testing is not reliable and can lead to unnecessary elimination of certain foods. Sensitivity to milk for instance does not mean you are allergic to it.
  • Diagnosis of allergy should be performed by a board certified allergist.

Allergic reaction to influenza vaccine in individuals with egg allergy is extremely rare. There is also a flu vaccine that is new and safe for adults and does not use egg protein.

If you think you have an allergy to gelatin you should also take caution when getting your flu shot. The recommendation is to always see an allergist for definitive testing and diagnosis.

Source reference:


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