Egg allergy is one of the most common allergies in children, second only to cow’s milk. The good news is that most children outgrow the allergy by age five.
Most egg-related allergic reactions involve the skin, although anaphylaxis can also occur. Symptoms often occur within minutes to a few hours of consuming the food and may include:
- Rashes, hives and/or itching
- Cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Inflamed nasal passages
- Allergic asthma
On rare occasions, allergic reactions may result in anaphylaxis, which requires immediate attention and symptoms include:
- Constriction of airways
- Shock and a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms near the time you have eaten eggs or egg-containing products, contact your doctor about allergy testing. Your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Skin test – A skin prick test is used to expose small amounts of the protein to your body. A food allergy is confirmed by the presence of a raised bump or hive at the prick location.
- Blood test – A blood test, also referred to as an IgE test, measures your immune system’s response to the proteins found in eggs by counting the number of specific antibodies in your blood.
- Food challenge –Following ingestion of gradually increased amounts of the suspected food allergen, you undergo careful supervision for a few hours or days to determine if any allergy symptoms occur. This test may also be performed to confirm that a child has outgrown his/her egg allergy.
The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid eggs and egg-containing foods. This goes beyond avoiding omelets and scrambled eggs since eggs are widespread in many products. Although most people are allergic to egg whites, both the white and the yolk must be avoided since it is impossible to completely separate them. Keep reading to find out hidden sources of eggs. It’s generally recommended that individuals who are allergic to hen’s eggs also avoid eggs from other birds. Some people may also be allergic to chicken. Food Handling & Preparation: Depending on the severity of the egg allergy, some people may have an allergic reaction simply from being in contact with eggs. Avoid touching eggs or products that contain eggs. Take precautions to avoid cross-contamination by using separate cooking utensils (cutting boards, serving spoons, pots and pans, etc.) for egg-containing products and by washing their hands in between handling of these foods. Eggs are an important part of cooking and baking for leavening and binding but don’t worry—there are substitutes! For each egg called for in the recipe, substitute one of the following:
- 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1 tablespoon water + 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1½ tablespoons water + 1½ tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
- 1 packet gelatin + 2 tablespoons warm water; mix just prior to use
- 2 tablespoons fruit puree (Use only for binding, not leavening)
Shopping: Since many foods, and even non-food products, contain eggs, you must read labels carefully while shopping. The FDA mandates the labeling of foods that contain the eight major food allergens, which includes eggs. Before purchasing a product, look to see if a product is labeled as egg-free. However, products that are labeled as egg-free may still contain small amounts of egg proteins. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer or ask a Weis Markets dietitian to be sure a product does not contain eggs. Take a closer look at common egg-containing foods:
- Meringue, custard, and marzipan
- Egg or fat substitutes
- Baked goods
- Mixes and batters
- Soup stocks
- Sauces and dressings
- Breaded foods
- Processed meat products
- Root beer, specialty coffee and alcoholic drinks
For some people, even touching nonfood products that contain eggs may trigger an allergic reaction. Nonfood products that may contain egg proteins include:
- Finger paints
- Flu vaccines
Eggs in Disguise: Read labels carefully and look for these words:
- Words starting with “ova” or “ovo”
Eating Out: When dining out, ask detailed questions about ingredients and how the food was prepared – your health and safety are at stake! There’s a high risk for cross-contamination in the kitchen so be sure to clearly express your food allergy to the server or cook. Ask to look at the food package if necessary. On the menu, look out for common egg-containing foods (listed above).
Don’t Go it Alone
A new diagnosis can be scary. Be sure to build a support system of family, friends and healthcare professionals to help you manage your egg allergy. Talk to a doctor or registered dietitian when eliminating foods from your diet about possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They may recommend an adjustment in your meal plan or a supplement to replace nutrients lost by eliminating the offending food and food ingredients. Also talk to your doctor about how to prepare for a reaction. You may treat a mild reaction with oral antihistamines to reduce signs and symptoms and relieve discomfort. If you are at risk for severe reactions or anaphylaxis, your doctor may advise you to wear a medical alert bracelet and/or prescribe an injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) to carry with you at all times.
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology http://www.acaai.org
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology http://www.aaaai.org
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America http://www.aafa.org
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network http://www.foodallergy.org
The Food Allergy Initiative http://www.faiusa.org