Beware of Gummy Bears, and Flu Shots

Personally, I think they're gross.  But lots of people love 'em, including my son, especially when he wore braces. What am I talking about?  Gummy bears.

And now a new study has found that, if you're allergic to them, be careful when you get a flu shot.

It's apparently all related to gelatin. If marshmallows make your tongue swell, according to, and gummy bears make you itchy, that means you're allergic to it.  And maybe you should take precautions if you get a flu shot.

“Gelatin is used in the flu shot, as well as other vaccines, as a stabilizer. Because it is found in the vaccine, those with a known allergy to gelatin can experience allergic reactions, such as hives, sneezing and difficulty breathing," quotes Stephanie Albin, MD, an allergist and American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) member.

It used to be eggs you had to watch out for, with flu shots, but now it's anything gelatin-based.  Last month, reports, the ACAAI "found even those with a severe egg allergy can receive the vaccine without special precautions.

“Gelatin reactions can cause hives, swelling, itchiness, shortness of breath and a severe life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis,” explained Dr. Albin. “Because of this, precautions should be taken, such as having a board-certified allergist administer the vaccine in a person with known gelatin allergy in case a reaction occurs.”

Though quite real, allergies to gelatin are rare. “Many food intolerances can be mistaken as allergies," allergist Richard Weber, M.D., ACAAI president, tells "Those who believe they might have an allergy should be tested and diagnosed by an allergist before taking extreme avoidance measures or skipping vaccinations. The flu shot is an important vaccine and can even be life-saving for individuals that are at an increased risk for severe side effects associated with the flu.”

So, gummy bears or flu shot?  Most doctors say, flu shot.  But that doesn't mean you should fool around if you are allergic to gummy bears or vitamins, or marshmallows, or certain kinds of candy.  Check with your allergist first and then make sure he or she is aware you might have a bad reaction before you take the shot.


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