Eggs are one of the most common allergy-causing foods in 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 inflammation, and vomiting or other digestive problems. Rarely, egg allergy can cause anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction.
Egg allergy can occur as early as infancy. Most children outgrow their egg allergy before adolescence. But in some cases, it continues into adulthood.
Egg allergy reactions vary from person to person and usually occur soon after exposure to egg. Egg allergy symptoms can include:
If you or your child has a reaction to eggs, discuss this with a doctor no matter how mild it may have been. The severity of egg allergy reactions can vary each time one occurs. This means that even if you or your child had a mild reaction in the past, the next reaction could be more serious.
If your doctor thinks you or your child may be at risk of a severe reaction, the doctor 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.
When to see a doctor
If you or your child has signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek immediate emergency treatment and use an autoinjector if one has been prescribed.
All food allergies are caused by an immune system overreaction. 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.
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing an egg allergy:
The most significant complication of egg allergy is having a severe allergic reaction requiring an epinephrine injection and emergency treatment.
The same immune system reaction that causes egg allergy can also cause other conditions. If you or your child has an egg allergy, you or your child may be at increased risk of:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or pediatrician. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in allergic disorders (allergist-immunologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your child's doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of it. For egg allergy, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask these or other questions at any time during the appointment.
What to expect from the doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
There's no one test used to diagnose egg allergy. Your doctor will use several approaches, and will want to rule out other conditions that could be causing allergy-like symptoms. In many cases, what at first seems to be an egg allergy is actually caused by food intolerance. This type of reaction is generally less serious than an egg allergy and doesn't involve the immune system.
Your doctor will start with these two basic steps:
Your doctor may also recommend one or more of the following tests:
Blood and skin tests are often used along with food challenges and diet changes.
If your doctor suspects symptoms may be caused by something other than a food allergy, you or your child may need tests to identify — or rule out — other possible causes.
Treatments and drugs
There's no medication or other treatment that can cure an egg allergy or prevent someone with a food allergy from having an allergic reaction. The only way to prevent egg allergy symptoms is to avoid eggs or egg products. This can be difficult, as eggs are a common food ingredient. However, you may find that you or your child can tolerate eggs that have been cooked into foods, such as when they are an ingredient in baked goods.
Antihistamines to ease symptoms
Emergency epinephrine shots
If you or your child does have an autoinjector, be sure it's always available. Learn how to use it properly. 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 also understands how to use it. Replace the autoinjector before its expiration date. Otherwise, it may not work properly.
There's no cure for egg allergy, but most children will eventually outgrow it. Talk to your child's doctor about how often he or she should be tested to see whether eggs still cause symptoms. This may be yearly, or on another schedule depending on your child's symptoms and the doctor's recommendations. 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.
Here are some things you can do to avoid an allergic reaction, and to keep it from getting worse if one does occur.
Hidden sources of egg products
Foods that contain eggs can include:
Several terms indicate that egg products have been used in manufacturing processed foods. Terms that can indicate egg proteins are present include:
Another potential source of exposure is cross-contamination in home-prepared dishes or meals, especially when you're eating in other people's homes where they may not be aware of the risk.
People who are very sensitive to egg proteins have a reaction when they touch eggs or egg products. Nonfood products that sometimes contain egg include:
Vaccinations and egg allergy
Last Updated: 2011-09-23
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