Eggs are the second most common food allergy for children. About 1.5 percent of children are allergic to hen's eggs. Eggs are not a major allergen for adults, although it is possible to develop an egg allergy in adulthood.
Symptoms of Egg Allergies:
Symptoms of egg allergy usually appear within minutes to two hours of eating eggs or food containing egg ingredients. Symptoms may include:
- Skin reactions, such as hives or eczema
- Allergic conjunctivitis (tchy, red, watery eyes)
- Gastrointestinal reactions, such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Airway symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, or runny nose
- Angioedema (swelling of lips, tongue, or face)
Egg allergies may cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.
It is possible to be allergic to just egg white, just egg yolk, or both. It is not possible to completely separate an egg yolk and white at home.
People with an allergy to hen's eggs are generally also allergic to the eggs of other birds, such as goose or quail. It is rare but possible to be allergic to one type of egg but not others. If you have a severe egg allergy and you are contact-reactive, you should avoid touching eggs, including the eggs of wild birds.
Some people may develop an allergy to eggs after developing an allergy to birds. This is called Bird-Egg Syndrome, and is most common when people have long-term exposure to birds, such as having parrots as pets. People with pet birds may develop a sensitivity to proteins in the bird's feathers, droppings, or dander that can cause the development of an allergy to eggs. It is more common in adult women than in men or children.
Eggs and Labeling Laws:
Eggs are one of the eight most common food allergies in the United States, and so are covered by the current food allergy labeling law (FALCPA). Food manufacturers are required to list eggs on their ingredient labels. However, you should still learn the names of egg-based ingredients, because some foods, like bakery goods, will not have allergy warning labels.
Living with Egg Allergies:
Since there is no cure for egg allergy at this time, managing your allergy involves avoiding all eggs and being prepared for future reactions. If you have been diagnosed with a severe egg allergy, your doctor will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly called an Epi-Pen) that you will need to carry with you at all times.
Avoiding eggs may seem easy, but food allergens can lurk in surprising places. You will need to learn to read ingredient labels and ask questions when you eat in restaurants.
Outgrowing Egg Allergies:
Children with egg allergy are likely to outgrow their allergy by adulthood. One study found the following rates of outgrowing egg allergy:
- 4% by 4 years
- 12% by 6 years
- 37% by 10 years
- 68% by 16 years
Researchers are working on ways to help children with egg allergies develop tolerance for egg protein. Some studies have found that children who eat extensively heated eggs in a controlled environment are able to reduce their allergic response more quickly. Other studies have found positive results with oral immunotherapy. However, researchers caution that new techniques for treating egg allergies are still experimental and not yet ready for your doctor's office.
Eggs and Medications:
There are several types of medications that contain egg protein. The most commonly used are vaccines, which are cultured in egg protein. If you have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor about which vaccines are safe for you. Always tell your doctor about your egg allergy, as there may be other medications that you need to avoid.