Allergies are caused when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks a harmless substance, such as a protein in food. The immune system creates antibodies to attack the offending food. The next time the food is eaten, the body releases chemicals such as histamines to protect the body.
Food allergies increased 18 percent in the decade between 1997 and 2007, according to one study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2009. They estimated that 3.9 percent of U.S. children alone have food allergies.
Milk allergies are the most common food allergy, followed by allergies to peanuts and eggs. As many as 2 percent of children are allergic to eggs. When it comes to eggs, proteins in the egg white are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than those in the yolk, although some people can be allergic to both.
The symptoms of an egg allergy are similar to other types of allergies and may include one or more of the following:
- skin reactions such as eczema, hives, or swelling
- stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- wheezing or trouble breathing
- stuffy or runny nose
- fast heartbeat
In extremely rare cases, anaphylactic shock may occur. This is a medical emergency.
Egg allergies are the most common food allergy in children, as well as the most likely to resolve prior to school age. Nearly all allergic reactions due to eggs occur in children with infantile eczema.
Egg allergies usually appear at a very early age, with the severest reactions occurring between 6 and 15 months.
Typical symptoms of an egg allergy in children are:
- skin contact reactions
- redness of the face
- hives around the mouth
Recipes for kids with egg allergies
Coming up with something kids can eat that doesn't contain eggs can be a daunting task for parents. Eggs are almost always found in breads, pasta, cereals, pastries, cookies, and cakes. Shiny breads such as bagels and pretzels almost always contain eggs as well. They are brushed with an egg wash before baking to give them a sheen. Eggs often show up in candies, cream fillings, salad dressings, and beverages such as root beer. Many fried restaurant foods (including french fries) use egg to get the fried batter to stick. This too can cause an allergic reaction.
Foods that may or may not contain eggs include macaroni, marshmallows, and noodles, among others. Parents should consult the ingredient label or manufacturer of these products to be sure.
A good practice starts with reading the ingredient label on packaged foods. The law requires manufacturers to identify if the product contains egg on the ingredient label.
Any food that includes the words emulsifier, binder, coagulant, or any ingredients that begin with ova will contain eggs.
Other ingredients to watch out for include:
- albumin (an egg protein)
- artificial or natural flavorings
- egg substitute (usually made with egg whites)
- lecithin E322
- silici albuminate
Non-food products that may contain egg include finger paints, shampoos, certain medications, makeup, and some vaccines. This includes most flu vaccines, as well as those for yellow fever and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella).
An egg allergy is extremely rare in adults. Clinical symptoms in adults almost always begin in childhood or young adulthood, but there are documented cases of adult-onset egg allergies. This occurs as the body’s immune system becomes sensitized to egg and reacts to it. If consumed, the protein in the egg is identified as an invader and the body activates the immune system, causing an allergic reaction. Symptoms may range from mild nausea or a flaring of eczema, to an anaphylactic reaction.
Symptoms in adults may include:
- lip or eyelid swelling
- itchy or watery eyes
- itchy ears or throat
- shortness of breath
- wheezing or coughing
Seek immediate help if these symptoms occur.
Egg substitute for allergies
There are several commercial egg replacers on the market that are suitable for baking. Unlike egg substitutes, however, egg replacers cannot be used to prepare omelets or scrambles. Egg replacers are typically a combination of potato starch, tapioca starch, and baking soda. You can make your own substitute in recipes.
For each egg omitted, combine:
- 1 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 1 tsp. baking powder