Allergy to eggs

Eggs are among the most prevalent triggers of allergic reactions in infants and young children. The majority of children with egg allergy tend to outgrow it before they reach school age. However, in certain instances when allergic to eggs, it may persist into their later years of childhood or, rarely, even into adulthood.

What is an Allergy to eggs?

Typically, egg-related reactions are primarily initiated by the protein components found in the egg, predominantly in the egg whites. Infants who experience eczema are at a heightened risk of developing an egg allergy. Additionally, individuals with other food allergies, such as to cow’s milk, or a family history of allergic conditions, also face an elevated risk of developing an egg allergy.

How do I know if my child has an egg allergy?

Determining if your child has an egg allergy involves observing their reactions to egg-containing foods. Pay close attention to any signs of allergic reactions such as hives, swelling, digestive issues, or respiratory symptoms shortly after introducing eggs into their diet.

Children who develop allergies to foods like eggs often experience other allergic conditions like eczema and food allergies that often manifest in early infancy, and as they grow older, they may also develop hay fever, asthma, or a combination of both.

Diagnosing egg allergy and testing

If you believe that your child may have an egg allergy, it is advisable to promptly consult your general practitioner (GP) for an allergy diagnosis. While some GPs possess a good understanding of allergies, it’s important to note that allergies are a specialised field.

Therefore, it’s more likely that your doctor will need to refer you to an allergy clinic for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis of egg allergy.

Testing for an egg allergy can involve either a blood test or a skin prick test. The availability of these tests can vary and may necessitate a referral to an allergy specialist.

Egg allergy symptoms

Symptoms of a food allergy, including those associated with egg allergies, can manifest within seconds or minutes of coming into contact with the problematic food. In some instances, there might be a delay of over an hour before symptoms become apparent.

Mild symptoms of egg allergy include nettle rash, also known as hives or urticaria, as well as a tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth.

More severe symptoms, although infrequent, are still a concern, especially for certain individuals, including children. These can include:

  • Swelling in the face, throat, and/or mouth
  • Breathing difficulties and dizziness
  • Severe asthma
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting

Note that individuals with heightened sensitivity may experience breathing difficulties when exposed to the vapours produced by cooked eggs.

In extremely rare instances, with severe egg allergy there may be a significant drop in blood pressure, resulting in anaphylaxis. This can lead to a person feeling weak and unresponsive, possibly leading to unconsciousness. In a case of severe reaction, call 999 immediately.

What is the treatment for egg allergy?

If your doctor confirms that your child’s allergy is mild, they may recommend using antihistamines to manage any symptoms that arise. In many cases, medical professionals tend to favour non-sedating modern antihistamines like loratadine or cetirizine over those that can induce drowsiness, such as chlorphenamine (also known as Piriton).

For more serious allergies, adrenaline autoinjectors are designed to be user-friendly and suitable for self-administration. If you have been prescribed adrenaline autoinjectors, it is essential to have it with you at all times without exceptions.

Even after using the adrenaline autoinjector, it’s crucial to seek medical attention because allergic reaction symptoms may reoccur, and more than one adrenaline injection may be necessary to manage the reaction.

To ensure you know how and when to use your adrenaline autoinjector, it’s advisable to consult with your GP or allergist for guidance. You can also find helpful information on the manufacturer’s website associated with the specific injector you carry or charities such as Allergy UK or Anaphylaxis UK.

Can egg allergy be cured?

Egg allergy can often be outgrown, especially in children. Many children with egg allergies outgrow them by the time they reach school age. However, the timeline for outgrowing egg allergies varies from person to person, and some individuals may continue to be allergic into their teenage or adult years.

While there is no specific cure, ongoing management involves allergen avoidance and regular medical evaluation to monitor for potential tolerance development over time. It’s essential for individuals with egg allergies to work closely with healthcare professionals for guidance on managing their condition effectively.

What to avoid with egg allergy?

Egg is a common ingredient found in a wide variety of foods, such as cakes, pastries, desserts, meat products, mayonnaise, salad dressings, soups, mousses, glazes, pasta, noodles, battered and breaded items, ice cream, chocolates, and sweets. This list is not exhaustive, and it’s essential to remember that if you have an egg allergy, you must diligently inspect food labels.

In the UK, all pre-packaged food products are required to clearly declare and emphasise the presence of major allergens, including egg, in the ingredient list, even if they are present in small quantities. The term “egg” must be explicitly stated in the ingredient list to ensure consumers are aware of its presence. Egg and forms of egg must be declared when various ingredients include:

  • Whole egg
  • Egg products like dried egg
  • Egg white and egg yolk
  • Egg proteins, such as albumin (found in egg white), ovalbumin (the primary protein in egg white), globulin, ovoglobulin, livetin, ovomucin, vitellin, and ovovitellin
  • Lysozyme, an enzyme derived from egg white, which may cause symptoms in a small percentage of people with egg allergies
  • Lecithin (E322), a substance that can be derived from egg and is present in certain foods and used in the production of some medications. If you are prescribed any medications, your pharmacist should be able to provide information regarding their ingredients.

For a complete list of foods containing eggs see the Allergy UK PDF Quick Guide to Egg Allergy.

When dining at restaurants or ordering takeout, food establishments are obligated to furnish allergen information. It’s important to directly inquire with the staff by asking whether the food you’ve selected contains eggs as an ingredient or if there’s a possibility of cross-contamination. Don’t hesitate to request the waiter to verify with the chef to ensure your safety.

Egg allergy and vaccinations

In children with egg allergy, the yellow fever vaccine can be administered in a specialist allergy centre designated for this such as the Evelina Hospital Children’s Allergy Service.

Note that all other vaccines, including the flu vaccine and MMR vaccine, are safe for individuals with egg allergies, but precautions may be taken for those with a history of severe reactions. Ask your healthcare professional if you are unsure.

How can we help at Children’s Allergy Doctors?

Here at Children’s Allergy Doctors we provide a full range of allergy services for all allergy conditions. We aim to be with you every step of the way, from allergy diagnosis through to helping you with food allergy management and more.

We offer food allergy desensitisation. Baked egg OIT is a treatment programme designed to give increasing amounts of foods containing baked egg to your child. The aim of the treatment is to help prevent accidental reactions to foods containing baked egg and expedite the resolution of loosely cooked or raw egg allergy.

You and your child will be counselled throughout the programme and will be seen at regular intervals in a consultant-led clinic. Suitability for OIT will be addressed as part of your child’s routine appointment when an allergy diagnosis is made.

If your child is suitable for baked egg OIT and you wish to progress, we will provide a tailored plan for this treatment. The plan would typically include a total of 6 visits, including an initial visit where the first dose of allergen and increasing to the maintenance dose, following which the dose is continued daily at home. After 9-12 months repeat allergy tests are performed to assess whether loosely cooked egg can be introduced under clinical supervision.

If you would like to find out more about allergy to egg or any other aspect of children’s allergies, or book an appointment, please contact our practice team on 0203 146 7721 or email admin@childrensallergydoctors.com.

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