What is egg allergy?

Four chicken eggs in a row, the third egg is cut open revealing the yoke.

If you have egg allergy you may be allergic to several types of egg including chicken, quail, duck, goose and turkey. While egg allergies tend to be less common in adults, chicken egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in babies and young children after cow’s milk.

In this article we’ll look at allergy to chicken eggs, what to know and how to treat it.

What causes egg allergy?

Egg allergy happens when your body’s immune system becomes sensitized to proteins in egg white or egg yolk. Or sometimes both. When this happens, your body thinks the egg proteins are harmful intruders and produces Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to defend itself. This is what causes allergy symptoms.

What are the symptoms of egg allergy?

Egg allergy symptoms usually happen minutes, or even seconds, after exposure. Most develop within two hours.

Symptoms include:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • A raised, itchy red rash (hives) – sometimes the skin can turn red and itchy but not raised
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, throat or other parts of the body
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea

Taking the time to read food labels is essential as some foods unexpectedly contain eggs. For example, some foamy coffee toppings and marshmallows.

Egg allergy symptoms: anaphylaxis

Egg allergy from childhood or new onset egg sensitization in adults can, in some severe cases, cause anaphylaxis. A recent study of anaphylaxis in babies found that egg was the most common food trigger.

Symptoms that could be part of a more severe reaction and need emergency treatment include:

  • flushed, pale or itching skin (hives)
  • swelling of the tongue or throat
  • a weak or rapid pulse
  • diarrhea, vomiting or feeling sick
  • low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • narrowing of the airways, which may cause wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • feeling dizzy or fainting

If I have chicken egg allergy, am I allergic to other eggs?

People with an allergy to chicken eggs may also be allergic to other types of eggs such as duck, goose, turkey or quail. It happens because the eggs contain a protein very similar to the one in chicken eggs. Food allergy research suggests such cross-reactions are rare.

Egg whites or yolks: What’s your egg allergy?

Egg whites contain proteins that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than those in yolk. But if you have egg allergy you must avoid both. Even if you can eat egg yolks, cross-contact with egg white protein is highly likely.

Woman clutching her stomach after drinking milk. Food allergy can cause symptoms within seconds and usually within two hours.

An expert guide to
food allergy

The most reliable way to prevent a reaction is to avoid eggs and egg-containing products completely. Although, this is easier said than done. A good place to start is making a habit of carefully reading food labels. As you grow more confident, you’ll become more familiar with terms that describe egg-containing foods.

Taking the time to read food labels is essential as some foods unexpectedly contain eggs. For example, some foamy coffee toppings and marshmallows. Even some egg substitutes contain egg protein. Some apps are capable of scanning product barcodes and reading the ingredients for you. But if possible, please do double check the information yourself.

Living with egg allergy

Follow these tips to reduce your risk of exposure to egg:

1. Stay vigilant when buying non-food products: Egg substitutes or egg protein can be in paints, soap, cosmetics, hair masks, shampoo and conditioner, dog food and creams. Certain vaccines contain egg proteins too.

2. Contact restaurants in advance: Tell the restaurant about your egg allergy, so kitchen staff know well in advance to prepare your food on a separate workstation. Don’t forget to also mention your allergy as your food is served. Please avoid self-service buffets as they may pose a risk of cross-contamination.

3. Follow kitchen food allergy etiquette: Store egg-free food separately and clearly label containers to avoid cross-contamination. Because egg can remain on sponges, use antibacterial wipes to clean surfaces, pots, pans and cutlery. Always wash your hands before eating at a clean table.

4. Take extra care while travelling: Bring your own food or request an egg-free meal on trains, buses and airplanes. Wipe down surfaces before eating and always have your allergy medicine (and spares) to hand. If you’re bringing your own medication, you may need to show a doctor’s note to customs and security. Translation apps can help you read allergens in other languages.

5. Create a food allergy action plan: Speak to your child’s healthcare provider about creating a food allergy action plan. If your child is old enough, encourage them to make their own decisions by starting conversations around different foods and egg-containing products. This builds their confidence to raise egg-allergy concerns on their own.

6. Don’t be shy to tell someone special: Trace allergens can linger in saliva. So, it’s essential you tell someone about your egg allergy before you share a kiss. Just don’t share food, glasses and straws or cutlery.

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Can you get a flu shot if you have egg allergy?

Yes, you can. The flu vaccine used to contain a small amount of egg protein, but not anymore. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer recommend that people allergic to eggs avoid the vaccine. Nor undergo any special testing before receiving it.

The yellow fever vaccine also contains egg protein. As yellow fever is mostly found in South America and Africa, people tend to receive a vaccine when travelling to these regions. However, The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC say says that people with severe egg allergy shouldn’t receive this vaccine. Your healthcare provider can provide a waiver if needed.

How do I find out if I have an egg allergy?

Only your healthcare provider can confirm if you have egg allergy. During consultations, they’ll take a note of your symptoms and family medical history. It’s worthwhile bringing a daily log of what you eat and drink to your appointment. This can help determine if egg allergy is causing your symptoms, rather than something else.

Your healthcare provider will also likely request a skin prick test. During this test, they put a drop of liquid on the back of your forearm. This liquid may contain egg white or egg yolk proteins. If the area turns red or pigmented after pricking your arm, you could have egg allergy. A skin prick test can also differentiate between egg white or egg yolk allergies, depending on the proteins used in the test.

If the results are unclear, you may need a blood test to screen for IgE antibodies. Egg allergy can cause IgE, non-IgE or mixed IgE reactions. IgE reactions typically develop quickly, while non-IgE reactions take up to 48 hours to appear.

How does allergy
testing work?

Please do keep in mind that non-IgE and mixed egg allergies can be harder to diagnose because they may not show up in blood tests. So, in these instances, your healthcare provider may suggest trying an oral food challenge. This involves eating increasing amounts of egg while being monitored for a reaction. They may also want to carry out an internal examination with a camera (endoscopy). But this depends on your medical history.

How do you treat egg allergy?

You’ll need to make changes to your diet. Don’t do this without talking to your healthcare provider first. They may advise you to see a dietician or nutritionist to help you plan meals so you’re getting enough nutrients.

Antihistamine is a common treatment for a mild reaction when it hasn’t been possible to avoid eggs. This symptom-reliever helps block the effects of histamine, which the body releases when it encounters a potential allergen. Your pharmacist can tell you about the different types of over-the-counter antihistamines.


People with an allergy to chicken eggs may also be allergic to other types of eggs such as duck, goose, turkey or quail.

Emergency treatment for a severe egg allergy

Epinephrine is the main medication used to counteract anaphylaxis. It’s another name for the hormone adrenaline. Your healthcare provider will prescribe it in the form of an auto-injector if they think you’re at risk of a severe allergic reaction.

Always carry two auto-injectors with you as one dose may not be enough. Teaching family and friends how to use an auto-injector is also extremely important as this prepares them for emergencies.

Don’t forget you could experience a delayed secondary reaction. Consequently, you should always go to the hospital after receiving a shot of epinephrine, even if you feel well afterward.

A medical alert bracelet or necklace can let people know how to help you in an emergency.

How long does egg allergy last?

Most children eventually outgrow allergy by the time they’re six years old. Adult onset is rare. Eating eggs that have been thoroughly cooked may build up tolerance or resolve symptoms over time. Speak to your healthcare provider before trialing this.

Egg allergy: Key points

Chicken egg allergy is the most common type of egg allergy. It’s rare in adults, less common in older children and most common in young children and babies. Sometimes you can be sensitized to just egg white or yolk but should avoid both regardless. People with severe egg allergy may need to avoid certain vaccines. Most children outgrow egg allergy.

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