Egg allergy is one of the most common types of food allergies among children in the United States, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). If your child has an egg allergy, their immune system mistakenly identifies proteins found in egg as harmful. When your child eats the egg protein, their immune system responds by releasing histamine and other chemicals. This triggers an allergic reaction, which can involve potentially life-threatening symptoms.
Anyone can develop an egg allergy, but some people have a higher chance than others. Risk factors include:
- Age: Egg allergy most commonly affects children. According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (ACAAI), as many as 2 percent of American kids have egg allergy. But most of them outgrow it by age 16.
- Skin conditions: If your child has certain skin conditions, especially eczema, they’re more likely to develop food allergies.
- Genetics: If one or both parents has a food allergy, a child is more likely to develop food allergies too. A family history of other allergic conditions, such as seasonal allergies, can also raises your child’s risk.
People with egg allergy are usually reacting to a protein found in egg whites, known as albumen. They can also be allergic to protein found in egg yolks. If your child has an egg allergy, their doctor will likely advise that eggs be avoided entirely. Completely separating egg whites and egg yolks can be difficult.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from person to person. The types of reactions can vary as well. A reaction can appear as quickly as a few minutes after your child consumes egg and can range from mild to severe.
Hives are often one of the first signs of an allergic reaction. They are red swollen patches that may appear on your child’s face or other parts of their body after they eat egg. Other mild allergic symptoms include:
- nasal congestion
- coughing or tight chest
- cramps, nausea, and sometimes vomiting
In some cases, your child may experience a severe allergic reaction to egg. This is called anaphylaxis. This type of reaction can develop quickly and affect multiple body systems at once. In addition to milder symptoms, anaphylaxis can involve potentially life-threatening symptoms, such as:
- swelling of your child’s tongue and lips
- constriction of your child’s throat
- difficulty breathing
- rapid drop in blood pressure
- loss of consciousness
It’s important to treat anaphylaxis immediately with an injected dose of epinephrine.
If your child has an egg allergy, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid eating or coming in contact with egg. Help them learn how to check food and beverage labels for egg and egg protein. Sometimes egg protein is listed under other names, such as:
- albumin or albumen
- words starting with "ova" or "ovo," the prefix for ovum, which is Latin for egg
Help your child avoid products that include or may contain any of these ingredients.
Egg can appear in many types of food and drink, often in unexpected places. In addition to many baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, egg can be found in:
- salad dressing
- meatloaf and meatballs
- cake frosting
- specialty drinks
If you’re not sure if a product contains egg or egg protein, contact the manufacturer.
If your child has been diagnosed with an egg allergy, their doctor will likely refer them to an allergist. The specialist can help you and your child learn how to avoid egg and treat an allergic reaction.
To treat a mild allergic reaction, your child’s allergist may recommend antihistamines. To treat a severe allergic reaction, your child may need a dose of epinephrine. This medication will help reduce swelling, stimulate your child’s heart, increase their blood pressure, and improve their breathing. It’s important to give epinephrine at the first sign of an allergic reaction and get your child to the emergency room for follow-up care. Without prompt treatment, anaphylaxis can be fatal.