November 4, 2012

Non-IgE Egg Allergy and the Flu Shot

Introduction post

Note: This article is about Non-IgE allergy, a different type of allergy than the one that causes the dangerous reaction of anaphylactic shock. If you or your loved one has IgE allergy to egg - determined by a positive skin test reaction within 30 minutes - you have potentially dangerous reactions and should receive your flu shot only from an allergist with experience in this. Terminology of Allergies

I got a flu shot once in the 1990's, before I knew I'm allergic to egg. I was sick for three days with fatigue and congestion. After that I never got a flu shot again.

Now I have a great job in a hospital and a flu shot is mandatory. Last year I considered getting a medical exemption, but I'm as concerned about catching the flu as my employer is about having it spread. I don't work with patients, but I see patients and visitors in the hallways. My allergist wanted me to get flu shots ever since she did skin tests for egg allergy in 2006, which were negative.

I discussed this with my allergist and she told me the amount of egg in flu shots has been greatly reduced since the old days and that many patients with egg allergy tolerate it well. I decided to go ahead and get one.

I planned it so I'd have time to be sick - I got it at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon with no plans for the weekend. Since non-IgE allergies are not very well understood, I'm recording my symptoms here to help others with allergies and to use for research.

- 1/2 hour after the shot, I felt lightheaded for a minute or two. I was just wondering if I should leave work when it passed.
- 2 hours after the shot, I had sinus pressure with a little pain.
- That evening I had sinus pain and pressure, fatigue, and stomach pain. These symptoms continued into the next day (Saturday).
- Sunday (2nd day) the the sinus pain was gone and the fatigue was much better, but the sinus pressure was still noticeable.
- Monday (3rd day) the sinus pain and pressure were gone but I still had some fatigue and drainage.

This fatigue from egg allergy is worse than ordinary fatigue from being tired, it is very hard to do things and makes me want to sleep all the time. It's one of the symptoms I was noticing when I identified my egg allergy in 2001.

I've done a search of the internet and looked in my immunology text, but although there is lots of information about what one cell does to another, I haven't found any about global symptoms related to immune reaction types. I know my egg allergy is not Type I (IgE) because the test was negative. I know it's not Type IV (T-cell) because I have that with dust and cigarette smoke and the symptoms are different from my egg reaction.  Also a Type IV reaction has a 24-hour delay and my egg symptoms don't. So it's either Type II or Type III, both of which feature the activities of IgG and IgM mediators. I will keep looking for information about symptoms...

This year I'm getting my flu shot next weekend. Something to look forward to! :p :-)

Remember, this is a description of Non-IgE egg allergy. If you have IgE allergy with a positive skin test reaction in 30 minutes or less, a flu shot is potentially dangerous and you should only get one from an experienced allergist.

I hope this is helpful!
Julia Baresch
November 4, 2012