What is egg allergy?
Eggs are one of the most common allergy-causing foods for children.
Egg allergy symptoms usually occur a few minutes to a few hours after eating eggs or foods containing eggs. Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe and can include skin rashes, hives, nasal congestion, and vomiting or other digestive problems. Rarely, egg allergy can cause anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction.
Egg allergy can occur as early as infancy.
How common is egg allergy?
Experts estimate that as many as 2 percent of children are allergic to eggs. Fortunately, studies show that about 70 percent of children with an egg allergy will outgrow the condition by age 16. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of egg allergy?
The common symptoms of egg allergy are:
- Skin inflammation or hives — the most common egg allergy reaction
- Nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing (allergic rhinitis)
- Digestive symptoms, such as cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Asthma signs and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath
A severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency that requires an immediate epinephrine (adrenaline) shot and a trip to the emergency room. Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms include:
- Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat or a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rapid pulse
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure felt as dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
Discuss with your doctor any reaction — no matter how mild — you or your child has to eggs. The severity of egg allergy reactions can vary each time one occurs, so even if a past reaction was mild, the next one could be more serious.
If your doctor thinks you or your child may be at risk of a severe reaction, he or she may prescribe an emergency epinephrine shot to be used if anaphylaxis occurs. The shot comes in a device that makes it easy to deliver, called an autoinjector.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes egg allergy?
An immune system overreaction causes food allergies. For egg allergy, the immune system mistakenly identifies certain egg proteins as harmful. When you or your child comes in contact with egg proteins, immune system cells (antibodies) recognize them and signal the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals that cause allergic signs and symptoms.
Both egg yolks and egg whites contain proteins that can cause allergies, but allergy to egg whites is most common. It’s possible for breast-fed infants to have an allergic reaction to egg proteins in breast milk if the mother consumes eggs.
What increases my risk for egg allergy?
There are many risk factors for egg allergy, such as:
- Atopic dermatitis. Children with this type of skin reaction are much more likely to develop a food allergy than are children who don’t have skin problems.
- Family history. You’re at increased risk of a food allergy if one or both of your parents have asthma, food allergy or another type of allergy — such as hay fever, hives or eczema.
- Egg allergy is most common in children. With age, the digestive system matures and allergic food reactions are less likely to occur.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is egg allergy diagnosed?
To diagnose egg allergy, your doctor will use several approaches, including ruling out other conditions that could be causing symptoms. In many cases, what seems to be an egg allergy is actually caused by food intolerance, which is generally less serious than food allergy and doesn’t involve the immune system.
Your doctor takes a medical history and conducts a physical exam. He or she may also recommend one or more of the following tests:
- Skin prick test. In this test, the skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the proteins found in eggs. If you or your child has egg allergy, a raised bump (hive) may develop at the test location. Allergy specialists are generally best equipped to perform and interpret allergy skin tests.
- Blood test. A blood test can measure the immune system’s response to eggs by checking the amount of certain antibodies in the bloodstream that may indicate an allergic reaction.
- Food challenge. This test involves giving you or your child a small amount of egg to see if it causes a reaction. If nothing happens, more egg is given while the doctor watches for signs of a food allergy. Because this test can cause a severe reaction, an allergy specialist should give it.
- Food tracking or elimination diet. Your or your child’s doctor may have you keep a detailed diary of foods eaten and may ask you to eliminate eggs or other foods from the diet one at a time to see whether symptoms improve.
How is egg allergy treated?
The only way to prevent egg allergy symptoms is to avoid eggs or egg products. Some people with egg allergies, however, can tolerate foods that contain well-cooked eggs, such as baked goods.
Antihistamines to ease symptoms
Medications such as antihistamines may reduce signs and symptoms of a mild egg allergy. These drugs can be taken after exposure to eggs. They aren’t effective for preventing an allergic egg reaction or for treating a severe reaction.
Emergency epinephrine shots
You may need to carry an emergency epinephrine injector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) at all times. Anaphylaxis requires an epinephrine shot, a trip to the emergency room and observation for a time to be sure symptoms don’t return.
Learn how to use the autoinjector. If your child has one, make sure caregivers have access to it and know how to use it. If your child is old enough, make sure he or she understands how to use it. Replace the autoinjector before its expiration date.
Most children eventually outgrow egg allergy. Talk to your child’s doctor about frequency of testing to see whether eggs still cause symptoms. It may be unsafe for you to test your child’s reaction to eggs at home, particularly if your child has had a severe reaction to eggs in the past.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage egg allergy?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with egg allergy:
- Read food labels carefully. Some people react to foods with only trace amounts of egg.
- Be cautious when eating out. Your server or even the cook may not be completely certain about whether a food contains egg proteins.
- Wear an allergy bracelet or necklace. This can be especially important if you or your child has a severe reaction and can’t tell caregivers or others what’s going on.
- Let your child’s caregivers know about an egg allergy. Talk to your child’s babysitters, teachers, relatives or other caregivers about the egg allergy so that they don’t accidently give your child egg-containing products. Make sure they understand what to do in an emergency.
- If you’re breast-feeding, avoid eggs. If your child has an egg allergy, he or she may react to proteins passed through your milk.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 9, 2017 | Last Modified: October 13, 2017
Egg allergy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/egg-allergy/basics/definition/con-20032721. Accessed October 12, 2017.
Egg Allergy. http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/egg-allergy. Accessed October 12, 2017.