What is an egg allergy?
Egg allergy is a type of food allergy. It is a hypersensitivity to dietary substances from the yolk or whites of eggs, causing an overreaction of the immune system which may lead to severe physical symptomsd.
Most people who are allergic to eggs react to the proteins in egg whites, but some can't tolerate proteins in the yolk. Every time the person eats an egg, the body thinks these proteins are harmful invaders. The immune system responds by kicking into high gear to fend off the "invader." This causes an allergic reaction, in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body.
Eggs in themselves aren't bad. But when you're allergic to them, your body thinks they are. The body's immune system normally fights infection. But when someone is allergic to a food, like eggs, the immune system overreacts to proteins in that food. Living with an egg allergy means you have to be aware of what you're eating and read food labels carefully. It's work, but it's worth it.
Who are most likely to be allergic?
Egg allergy appears mainly, but not exclusively, in children. In fact, it is the second most common food allergy in children affecting about 1-2% of preschool children.. It is usually treated with an exclusion diet and vigilant avoidance of foods that may be contaminated with egg. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that most children outgrow egg allergy by the age of five, but some people remain allergic for a lifetime
What are the symptoms?
The majority of allergic reactions to egg are mild and consist of hives around the mouth or more generalised hives on other parts of the body. Some children may develop hives from skin contact with egg. These are usually restricted to the area of skin that came into contact with the egg and do not always mean your child will develop worse symptoms from eating egg.
Egg allergy reactions vary from person to person and usually occur soon after exposure to egg. Egg allergy symptoms can include:
- Skin inflammation or hives — the most common egg allergy reaction
- Allergic nasal inflammation (allergic rhinitis)
- Digestive (gastrointestinal) symptoms, such as cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Asthma signs and symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath
The most severe food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis a life-threatening emergency that requires an immediate epinephrine (adrenaline) shot and a trip to the emergency room. Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms include:
- Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat or a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rapid pulse
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure felt as dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
How is egg allergy diagnosed?
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 auto-injector.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you or your child has signs or symptoms of a food allergy shortly after eating eggs or a product that contains eggs. If possible, see the doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This may help in making a diagnosis.