Egg allergy is the second most common allergy for young children. Between 1 and 2 percent of children have an allergy to eggs.
Symptoms of Egg Allergy
The most common symptoms of egg allergy in children are:
Skin Symptoms (59% of children with egg allergies experience one or more of these symptoms)
Gastrointestinal Symptoms (21% children with egg allergies experience one or more of these symptoms)
Eczema (18% children with egg allergies experience eczema)
Airways (10% children with egg allergies experience one or more of these symptoms)
Symptoms usually occur within minutes to hours of eating egg or foods containing egg ingredients. Symptoms may also include allergic conjunctivitis (itchy, red, watery eyes), runny nose, or nausea. Egg allergies may cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.
Babies may have different symptoms than older children.
The Relationship Between Eczema and Egg Allergy
Egg allergy is the most common food allergy among children with eczema (atopic dermatitis). That does not mean that eczema is the most common symptom of egg allergy, however.
Some doctors believe that eczema is a risk factor for developing an egg allergy, rather than a symptom of a pre-existing allergy.
Some children with eczema may find relief from symptoms when they avoid eating eggs, but others may not. Eczema has many causes, and an egg allergy may only be part of the trigger.
Outgrowing Egg Allergy
Many children with egg allergies develop a tolerance to egg by the time they reach high school. Different studies have found different rates of developing tolerance. The percent of children with egg allergy who develop tolerance to egg is:
- 4% - 11% by age 4 years
- 12% - 26% by age 6 years
- 37% - 53% by age 10 years
- 68% - 82% by age 16 years
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that some children with egg allergy are able to tolerate eggs that have been baked into waffles or muffins. Children who were able to eat small amounts of baked egg over a period of time were more likely to develop a tolerance for eggs in other forms.
Talk to your allergist before attempting to feed your child baked eggs. Your child should have a supervised food challenge in the doctor’s office before trying baked eggs at home, in case of a reaction. Some children with egg allergies are not able to tolerate even tiny amounts of baked eggs.
Preventing Egg Allergy
Doctors used to recommend delaying the introduction of eggs and other potentially allergenic foods to babies to try to prevent the development of food allergies. However, more recent research suggests that delaying the introduction of foods for too long may actually increase the risk of allergies.
Most childhood vaccines do not contain egg protein and are safe for children with egg allergies. The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is cultured in eggs, but many studies have shown it to be safe even for children with severe egg allergies. The influenza vaccine (flu shot) is not recommended for children with a history of severe allergic reactions to eggs. However, it may be tolerated by children with mild allergic symptoms or when given in an alternate dose.
Koplin, J, et al. Can early introduction of egg prevent egg allergy in infants? A population-based study. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Volume 126, Issue 4. October 2010
Lemon-Mulé, H., et al. Immunologic changes in children with egg allergy ingesting extensively heated egg. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 122, Issue 5, November 2008
Savage, J., et al. The Natural History of Egg Allergy. Journal of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, September 2007.