Egg Allergy

What is an Egg Allergy?

Egg allergies are more common than many people realize, and not just eggs from chickens either. What happens is the immune system becomes hypersensitive to the protein in egg whites. It is one of the most common allergens, especially in pre-adolescent kids. The body considers it an unwelcomed intruder, and the immune system reacts by releasing chemicals. The chemicals can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Even just touching eggs can be harmful to those who are allergic.

What are the Symptoms of an Egg Allergy?

Symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Skin inflammation
  • Excess mucous
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Itchiness around the mouth
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Wheezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Abdominal upset that may include nausea, vomiting and/or cramping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight feeling in chest
  • Anaphylactic shock (rare)

Egg Allergy Causes

People with sensitive and overreactive immune systems often have food allergies. In the case of egg allergy, the body’s immune system wrongly identifies particular egg proteins as harmful to the body.

The antibodies, which serve as the body’s immune system cells, perceive the egg protein as foreign invaders once you or your child consumes an egg. The antibodies signal the immune system to produce a chemical called histamine, among other chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the signs and symptoms likened to an allergic reaction.

The allergic proteins are found in both egg whites and egg yolks. However, a relatively high number of egg allergies are connected to egg whites. Breastfeeding infants can also experience egg allergies from these egg proteins if the mother eats eggs.

How is an Egg Allergy Treated?

After tests confirm an allergy to eggs, they must be eliminated from the diet. US law requires food manufacturers to add warning labels to products that contain eggs. Labels must be carefully read, and steps must be taken to make certain that eggs are not eaten or touched. Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening medical emergency, and an allergy bracelet should be worn at all times. Egg-based vaccines also pose a serious risk, and the risks and alternatives should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Caregivers and others close to the individual should be made fully aware of the allergy and the seriousness of the condition.

Treatment includes

  • Antihistamines to relieve itching
  • An Epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector to treat anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock

  • Throat swelling
  • Breathing problems
  • Dizziness brought on by rapid drop in blood pressure

A nutritionist can help to create a diet plan and provide a list of safe egg substitutes. The majority of children with egg allergies outgrow the condition by age five, but not always. Although rare, adults can develop a sensitivity to eggs. With professional medical care and testing, a doctor can determine if an egg allergy or sensitivity is gone.

Egg Allergy Prevention

Below are some ways one can avoid egg allergies from worsening or recurring:

  • When eating out, persons with this allergy should be cautious about the menu. Sometimes even the cook may not know which foods contain egg proteins.
  • Breastfeeding mothers with egg allergic infants should avoid eggs as egg proteins readily pass through the milk to the child.
  • Affected individuals need to read food labels carefully. Some people have highly sensitive immune systems which react to minute quantities of egg protein.
  • Informing teachers, babysitters, caregivers, and relatives about your baby’s allergic reaction can prevent accidents. Additionally, inform them what to do in case of an emergency and ensure they understand.
  • Some vaccines aimed at preventing other diseases may contain egg proteins. For instance, some flu vaccines have egg protein traces. Egg allergic adults and children should talk to a doctor before proceeding with the flu vaccine. Another illness prevention shot is the yellow fever vaccine. It contains traces of egg protein and should, therefore, be administered at the discretion of a medical practitioner.
Resources
Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 19, 2017