Eggs are one of the most common causes of food allergies in children. Between one and two percent of all young children are allergic to eggs. The good news is two-thirds of children will outgrow this allergy by the time they reach age 7. It is also possible to develop an allergy to eggs at an older age.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune system creates antibodies to fight foreign particles that are harmful to the body, including viruses and bacteria. If you have a food allergy, the food you are allergic to is called your allergen. When you eat the allergen, your body produces antibodies to destroy the particles of that allergen.
Egg allergy symptoms
In the case of egg allergy, symptoms usually show up within a few hours of eating eggs. In children, egg allergy is the most common cause of eczema – a scaly, red rash on the skin. Other symptoms can include runny nose, pain in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and itching around the face and mouth. A severe reaction can cause anaphylaxis which is a combination of low blood pressure and swelling in the airways that makes it difficult to breathe. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can be deadly.
The best way to avoid an allergic reaction to eggs is to not eat eggs. Other foods to avoid if you are allergic to eggs include:
• Baked goods – Many baked goods including pretzels contain eggs. Pastries that look shiny probably also have egg white brushed on the surface.
• Pastas – Read the label to find pastas that do not contain eggs.
• Sauces – Some sauces use eggs as a thickening agent.
• Casseroles and meatloaf
• Simplesse – This fat substitute is made from eggs.
• Ice cream – Some ice creams, especially French and Italian gelati, contain eggs.
• Egg substitutes – Some of these products contain egg whites.
Both egg whites and egg yolks contain proteins that can cause an allergic reaction. People who are allergic to chicken eggs may be allergic to other types of eggs such as duck or quail eggs. Most people who are allergic to eggs are not allergic to chicken, but it is possible to be allergic to both eggs and poultry.
Egg allergy and flu shots
If you are allergic to eggs, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot. The vaccine for the flu virus is made using eggs. This means there is a little bit of egg protein in the flu shot. Most people who are allergic to eggs are able to get a flu shot in the doctor’s office. You may need to get several small shots instead of one big dose of the vaccine, or you may need to stay at the doctor’s office for about half an hour to make sure you don’t have a reaction after the shot.
Read the labels
The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid every possible source of eggs. Read all food labels and learn what other names egg products can be listed under. Because eggs are one of the top eight allergens in the United States, the FDA requires manufacturers to clearly label products that include eggs. It is up to you to think about cross-contamination issues including whether a food that is not labeled as containing eggs might have been produced or packaged on the same line with a product containing eggs.
Eating Around an Egg Allergy