As a diligent food allergy aware parent, you have done everything you can think of to ensure your child avoids unsafe foods and has a safe environment in which to thrive. But have you considered possible allergic reaction to food allergens contained in vaccinations? For parents whose children are allergic to egg, that is a question many have asked themselves and their child’s doctor; is the Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) safe for my child? Over the last few years, doctors and researchers have explored the potential for allergic reaction to egg protein found in the MMR vaccine. This is what they had to say.
Vaccinations and Food Allergy
Researchers have found that vaccination is an important step in preventing the contraction of potentially dangerous diseases. Decades ago, many people became physically impaired or died due to exposure to a variety of diseases we rarely see occur today. Doctors recommend, and schools require, young children to be vaccinated against specific highly contagious and very dangerous diseases prior to beginning school. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one of those vaccinations (MMR) potentially protects children from measles, a highly contagious and dangerous respiratory infection that affects the lungs and breathing tubes; mumps, a highly contagious illness that is untreatable and can lead to long term health issues including meningitis and deafness; and rubella, a virus that in children is usually mild, but if contracted by adults can cause serious medical issues, or if contracted by a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects. MMR also protects against varicella, or chicken pox. While chicken pox usually causes itchy rashes and blisters in most children, it can cause serious illness in adults and may result in death for anyone who contracts it. About 200 people each year who contract chicken pox die as a result.
Exposure to food allergens is equally dangerous for children. Currently, about 6 million children suffer from food allergy, and nearly 200 deaths each year are attributed to food allergy exposure. The best practice to prevent allergy emergencies is avoidance. So, the parent with a child allergic to egg could find themselves wondering which is more dangerous: not getting the vaccine or potentially exposing their child to a known allergen. The question remains. What are the risks?
Risk of Reaction to MMR Vaccine
The thing that has parents concerned is that the MMR vaccine is made from the fibroblasts (a type of connective tissue) of chicken embryos. The fact that egg protein is a component of the vaccine could give pause to many parents with egg allergic children. But according to doctors and scientists, the amount of egg protein in the vaccine dose is extremely low and unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction.
Physicians believe that it is still important for children to have their MMR vaccination on schedule regardless the status for egg allergy. The risk of measles, mumps, rubella or varicella is much greater than the risk of allergic reaction. In fact, the majority of children who had an allergic reaction to the vaccination were not egg allergic. The reaction was attributed to sensitivity to an antibiotic contained in the vaccination, not the egg protein.
While past research has shown that it is very rare to have a reaction to MMR vaccine due to egg allergy, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen, just that it’s not likely. There are cases where an individual child’s medical situation, such as a history of anaphylaxis, may necessitate further precautions to ensure safety. In these cases, doctors recommend referral for further evaluation. It should be noted though, severe egg allergy was removed from the CDC’s list of contraindications to the MMR vaccine.
Both food allergy issues and childhood vaccinations are important and hotly debated topics. As always, it is important to consult with your child’s doctor about immunization, his or her allergy and any risks they may face.
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