What Is an Egg Allergy?
An egg allergy is when your body mistakenly defends itself against the proteins in egg yolks and/or egg whites. Therefore, egg allergies are sometimes also called an egg yolk allergy or an egg white allergy. Your immune system releases chemicals into your body to defend against the proteins. It is these chemicals that create the symptoms of egg allergies. Most people with this condition experience a mild egg allergy. However, in rare cases, a severe egg allergy can potentially be life-threatening. A small percentage of children experience egg allergies, and most of these children outgrow the allergy with time and with no serious side effects.
Egg Allergy vs. Intolerance
An egg allergy and egg intolerance are two separate and distinct conditions that involve different parts of your body. An egg allergy interacts with your immune system. An egg intolerance interacts with and impacts your digestive system.
If you have an egg allergy, you will likely experience several symptoms. Egg allergy symptoms in adults are similar to egg allergy symptoms in children.
An allergic reaction to eggs can cause the following symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Rapid heartbeat
- Repetitive cough
- Feeling sick
- Hives, or itchy bumps on the skin
- Eczema, or itchy and irritated patches of skin
Anaphylactic shock is a rare symptom that is possibly life threatening. Wheezing, a tight feeling in your throat, and trouble breathing are signs of anaphylactic shock. Since this is a medical emergency, we strongly recommend anyone experiencing anaphylactic shock to seek medical care immediately.
Your doctor will diagnosis an egg allergy by first performing a routine medical exam, while inquiring about your medical history. If your doctor suspects the condition, then your doctor will recommend additional tests to confirm the egg allergy diagnosis.
Additional egg allergy tests can include:
- Skin prick test – This is an allergy skin test usually performed by an allergy specialist. The specialist will prick the skin and expose the area to a small sample of egg protein. Then, the doctor will watch for any skin reactions such as the development of a rash or hives.
- Blood test – Doctors will measure antibody levels in the blood to examine how the immune system reacts to egg proteins.
- Food challenge – An allergy specialist gives you or your child a small sample of eggs to eat and watches for indications of an allergic reaction.
- Food diary or tracking – This is sometimes also called a food elimination diet. Your doctor will ask you to track the food you eat every day, eliminate foods such as eggs, and describe any changes in symptoms.
Egg allergies come from a glitch in your immune system. Your immune system confuses egg proteins as harmful and, based on this erroneous overreaction, releases chemicals to defend your body. Proteins in egg whites cause most egg allergies. There are also proteins in egg yolks.
Therefore, an allergic reaction is your body trying to defend itself. Immune cells in your body called antibodies release “self-defense” chemicals like histamine. These chemicals create the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Risk factors for both mild egg allergies and severe egg allergies include:
- Age – Children experience egg allergies more than adults. As children age, their digestive system develops more sophisticated and accurate responses to food.
- Family history – If one or both of your parents have any allergies or asthma, then you are more at risk of experiencing an egg allergy.
- Atopic dermatitis – This is a type of skin reaction also known as eczema. Children with atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop an egg allergy.
The best way to treat an egg allergy is to avoid eating eggs and to manage the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Egg allergy treatments include:
- Antihistamines – For a mild egg allergy, antihistamines can reduce and help manage the symptoms of the condition.
- Epinephrine shots – Your doctor may want you and/or your child to carry an emergency epinephrine injector. An epinephrine shot helps manage anaphylactic shock. If you or your child experiences anaphylactic shock, please also visit the emergency room immediately.
Foods to Avoid if You Have an Egg Allergy
If you have an egg allergy, there are certain foods you can avoid to reduce or prevent allergic reactions.
Egg allergy foods to avoid:
- Canned soup
- Baked goods
- Salad dressing
Many meat-based recipes include eggs, such as meatballs and meatloaf. Any food that is breaded should also be avoided. If you and/or your child suffer from egg allergies, a registered nutritionist or dietician with Baptist Health may be able to help.
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