Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Is the Flu Vaccine Safe for Kids with Asthma and Allergies?


Last year about this time the headlines were full of stories about the H1N1 influenza pandemic and how it was impacting people across the country—especially kids.

So far, this year's flu season has been mild in comparison, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is enough flu vaccine for anyone who would like to receive it. But should your child with asthma and/or allergies be one of them?

According to the CDC, if your child is six months old or older, the answer is yes. In fact, it is even more important for children with asthma to receive the flu vaccination than it is for other children to receive it mainly because asthma puts kids at high risk for complications from the flu—even if their symptoms are mild and well controlled with medication.

Why does the flu hit kids with asthma harder than other kids? The CDC explains that asthma causes swollen and sensitive airways, and influenza only makes the problem worse. The infection can also trigger an asthma attack and increase the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. In some cases it can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases as well. Statistics show children and adults with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after a bout with the flu, and asthma is the most common reason why people with the flu have to be hospitalized.

Getting your child vaccinated against the flu can help ward off a lot of these problems. But there is one caveat—CDC recommendations call for children with asthma to receive only the flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine. That's because the shot contains only inactivated flu virus and cannot possibly cause the flu in the child.

Of course, the flu vaccine does contain eggs. So what about kids with egg allergy? A recent report from doctors at Johns Hopkins Children's Center suggests even these children can be safely vaccinated. However, special precautions are necessary. The Johns Hopkins physicians recommend that parents consult with a pediatric allergist before allowing a child with severe egg allergy or known allergies to vaccinations to receive the shot.

Children with mild egg allergy or unconfirmed allergy can generally be vaccinated in the pediatrician's office, but your doctor will decide if your child needs allergy testing first, and he or she may also ask you to keep your child in the physician's office for a few hours following the injection to make sure immediate care is available in the extremely rare case that a reaction should occur.

If your child has yet to receive this year's flu vaccine, talk to your doctor and ask him or her whether it would be a good idea for your child.

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