Many children are able to tolerate baked eggs even when they’re allergic to raw eggs (to test this, seek the advice of a health professional). And most children with an egg allergy will outgrow it and be able to tolerate eggs by the age of four.
The Causes of an Egg Allergy
An egg allergy occurs when the immune system mistakes certain egg proteins as harmful. The immune system attacks the proteins by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause an allergic reaction.
There are six major egg proteins that cause allergies and they are found in both the egg yolk and white. However, the proteins in the egg white are the most common allergens.
The way you cook your eggs can change the level of allergenicity. For example, heating eggs with wheat in a cake changes the digestibility of the protein, which is why some children might not be able to tolerate raw egg but can eat cooked eggs or eggs in baked form just fine.
The Symptoms of an Egg Allergy
Most egg allergy symptoms present within 30 minutes of being exposed to an egg. Reactions and the severity of symptoms differ from person to person but may include:
- Inflammation of the skin, or hives
- Digestive symptoms such as cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting
- Signs of asthma such as coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or wheezing
- Nasal congestion, a runny nose and sneezing
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
- Red or watery eyes
While there have been cases of anaphylaxis, this is not a common reaction for eggs compared to peanut and milk allergies. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening and requires an immediate epinephrine or adrenaline shot. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Constricted airways, including a swollen throat
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- A rapid pulse
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure, often presenting as dizziness, lightheadedness or a loss of consciousness.
It’s important to discuss with your doctor any reaction to eggs since the severity of each episode is different.
Vaccinations and Egg Allergies
Several vaccines contain egg proteins, which can pose a risk of triggering an allergic reaction. These might include:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines - although eggs are used to produce these vaccines, they are typically safe for children with an egg allergy.
- Flu vaccines - some contain small amounts of egg proteins, but most are still safe for most people with an egg allergy.
- Yellow fever vaccine - It’s not generally recommended for people with an egg allergy as it has been known to provoke an allergic reaction. However, it can be given under medical supervision after testing for a reaction.
Of course, if in doubt, it’s always best to consult a doctor.
Egg Allergies in Adults
It is very uncommon for adults to develop an allergy to egg later in life. These symptoms almost always begin in childhood or adolescence.
There are rare cases of adult-onset egg allergies, when the body’s immune system identifies the egg protein as a foreign invader and becomes sensitive and reactive to it.
As with symptoms in childhood, they can differ between individuals from mild nausea to a severe anaphylactic reaction. Adults may experience lip or eyelid swelling, itchy eyes, ears, or throat, shortness of breath, or wheezing or coughing.
Managing an Egg Allergy
The only way to treat an egg allergy is to completely avoid eggs, regardless of whether you are allergic to egg whites or yolks. Firstly, it’s important to understand and read all food labels carefully. Some people have a reaction even with trace amounts of egg.
To avoid egg products, you may want to familiarise yourself with other terms that may indicate a product contains components of eggs including:
Hidden Sources of Egg Products
It’s not always clear or easy to tell when a product contains egg. In fact, even some foods labelled egg-free may contain egg proteins. Below is a list of unexpected foods that may contain egg:
- Marshmallows, marzipan and icing
- Creamy salad dressings
- Breaded and batter-fried foods
- Processed meats
- Custards, puddings, and ice creams
- Many kinds of pasta
- Crepes, waffles, and pretzels
Some people with an egg allergy are able to eat baked goods and other foods with eggs that have been adequately heated. It is worth asking your health professional for additional information on this as it can make it easier to follow a varied diet if this is the case.
If your child has an egg allergy, it’s important to alert babysitters, teachers, and other caregivers to their allergies and to let them know what to do in an emergency. Eggs provide a range of nutritional benefits in your diet so you may want to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian or nutritionist to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional requirement from other sources.
Learn More About Eggs for Children
Australian Eggs is dedicated to educating you on the myths and misconceptions around eggs. Whether or not to add eggs into a child’s diet is often debated. Find out more about feeding eggs to your baby or child today.