Egg Allergy

eggEgg allergy can occur as early as infancy. Most children outgrow their egg allergy before adolescence. But in some cases, it continues into adulthood.

Symptoms
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

Anaphylaxis
A severe allergic reaction can lead to 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

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 autoinjector.

Tests
There’s no one test used to diagnose egg allergy. Your doctor will use several approaches, and will want to rule out other conditions that could be causing allergy-like symptoms. In many cases, what at first seems to be an egg allergy is actually caused by food intolerance. This type of reaction is generally less serious than an egg allergy and doesn’t involve the immune system.

Your doctor will start with these two basic steps:

  • Medical history. The doctor will ask a number of questions about your health or your child’s health and will ask detailed questions about signs and symptoms.
  • Physical examination. The doctor will examine you or your child for signs of a food allergy or other health issues.

Your doctor may also recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Skin prick test. In this test, the skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the proteins found in eggs. If you or your child has egg allergy, a raised bump (hive) may develop at the test location. Allergy specialists are generally best equipped to perform and interpret allergy skin tests.
  • Blood test. A blood test (IgE antibody test) can measure the immune system’s response to eggs by checking the amount of certain antibodies in the bloodstream that may indicate an allergic reaction. In some cases, blood tests are used to find out other information.
  • Food challenge. This test involves giving you or your child small amounts of egg to see if it causes a reaction. If nothing happens, more egg is given, and you or your child will again be watched for signs of a food allergy.
  • Food tracking or elimination diet. Your or your child’s doctor may have you keep a detailed diary of the foods that you or your child eats, and may ask you to eliminate eggs or other foods from your diet or your child’s diet one at a time, to see whether symptoms improve.

Blood and skin tests are often used along with food challenges and diet changes.

If your doctor suspects symptoms may be caused by something other than a food allergy, you or your child may need tests to identify — or rule out — other possible causes.

Treatments and drugs
There’s no medication or other treatment that can cure an egg allergy or prevent someone with a food allergy from having an allergic reaction. The only way to prevent egg allergy symptoms is to avoid eggs or egg products. This can be difficult, as eggs are a common food ingredient. However, you may find that you or your child can tolerate eggs that have been cooked into foods, such as when they are an ingredient in baked goods.

Antihistamines to ease symptoms 
Despite your best efforts, you or your child may still come into contact with eggs. Medications, such as antihistamines, may reduce signs and symptoms of a mild egg allergy. These drugs can be taken after exposure to eggs. But, they aren’t effective for preventing an allergic egg reaction or for treating a severe reaction.

Emergency epinephrine shots 
If you or your child is at risk of a severe reaction, you may need to carry an emergency epinephrine injector (EpiPen, EpiPen Jr, Twinject) at all times. If you or your child develops anaphylaxis after egg exposure, you or your child will need an emergency epinephrine shot and a trip to the emergency room. Even if anaphylaxis symptoms improve, you or your child will need to remain under medical supervision for a period of time to be sure severe symptoms don’t return.

If you or your child does have an autoinjector, be sure it’s always available. Learn how to use it properly. If your child has one, make sure caregivers have access to it and know how to use it. If your child is old enough, make sure he or she also understands how to use it. Replace the autoinjector before its expiration date. Otherwise, it may not work properly.

There’s no cure for egg allergy, but most children will eventually outgrow it. Talk to your child’s doctor about how often he or she should be tested to see whether eggs still cause symptoms. This may be yearly, or on another schedule depending on your child’s symptoms and the doctor’s recommendations. It may be unsafe for you to test your child’s reaction to eggs at home, particularly if your child has had a severe reaction to eggs in the past.