Skin Reactions to Vaccination
As various vaccines begin to roll out to control the Coronavirus pandemic, there is much talk around the risks of vaccines. However, despite the scare stories, reactions are relatively uncommon and usually easily treated. It is true that there are some potential skin reactions when taking a vaccine so lets run through them.
Most Common Vaccination Reactions
Injection Site Reaction
This is one of the most common reactions you’re likely to see. This is typically inflammation or skin damage at the point of injection. They can be categorized into two forms:
- A local allergic reaction – This is also known as a flare reaction and is usually a mild reaction that will go away in time
- Extravasation Reaction – this is a more severe reaction characterised by the skin tissue damage caused by extravasation. This is a leakage of a small of the vaccine or drug from the blood vessel where it was injected
Symptoms for both of these reactions usually include redness, tenderness, warmth and itching. The risks with extravasation are typically more severe including pain, blistering and severe skin damage. Greater care is taken to prevent extravasation and drugs where the tissue damage risk is higher are usually administered into a larger blood vessel in the torso rather than the arm.
To summarise. Symptoms of a flare reaction include:
- Redness along the vein or at the site of the injection
A more severe reaction that is caused by extravasation may initially have the same signs as a flare reaction, but will worsen to include:
- Pain at the site of the injection
- Severe skin damage
Treatment for Injection Site Reactions
Depending on the administered drug, there are various treatment options.
Best for treating reactions due to vinca alkaloid drugs, which include vincristine (Oncovin®), vinblastine (Velban®) or vinorelbine (Navelbine®).
Treatment of a reaction from drugs other than the vinca alkaloids may be treated with ice or cold compresses, especially if it is only mild redness or discomfort.
Various antidotes are available to treat reactions due to extravasation, depending on the type of drug and how much has leaked into the tissue.
Allergic Reactions To Vaccinations
Various studies demonstrate some allergic reaction risks to vaccines. This has also recently occurred with the new Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Some people, especially those that are particularly sensitive could react to a vaccine. However, usually there is some variation in the severity of the reaction.
For example, in milder cases it could be minor cutaneous signs and symptoms such as erythema and itching. Alternatively, more severe cases are more likely to cause multi-system effects such as anaphylaxis
Without going into complete details. There are three reactions that are most common:
Urticaria – Hives is a common reaction symptom. They usually occur quite quickly after the triggering event.
Angioedema – This is usually made apparent by swelling of the airways, throat itchiness and shortness of breath
Erythema – This will typically appear as a pink, hive-like rash or circular blister pattern. Sometimes fever, itchiness and aches occur too.
Monitor Your Skin
For most of us the vaccine will not be available for some time. However, if you’re a key worker or high risk you may be in line to receive the vaccine sooner than everyone else. Quite simply, we would recommend monitoring your skin and remember to inform the doctor or medical professional if you are particularly sensitive to allergies.
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Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, alumnus UC Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation is about Digital Health and I have published 5 scientific articles in teledermatology and artificial intelligence.