Eggs are a staple in diets around the world. They’re also in lots of processed foods, from pancakes to pasta. Avoiding eggs can be tricky and you must if you’re allergic to them. The most common symptom of egg allergy is usually skin inflammation or hives. But it can cause anaphylaxis.
This is a severe allergic reaction that affects your whole body and can be life-threatening. An allergen is a substance that triggers allergy. Of the major food allergens, egg is one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis in children. This is an emergency at any age and you should always get medical attention immediately.
Read on to learn about the typical egg allergy symptoms. We’ll look at how to get a precise diagnosis; chicken, duck, turkey, goose and quail eggs can all cause allergic reactions. We’ll also look at ways to manage egg allergy symptoms, yours or your child’s, from avoidance strategies to the different treatment options.
Egg allergy symptoms usually develop within two hours. But they may appear within minutes or seconds:
Symptoms of food
and other allergies
Antihistamine tablets can treat a mild allergic reaction. Antihistamine helps block the effects of histamine, which the body releases when it encounters an allergen. Speak to your pharmacist about the different types available without a prescription. Corticosteroids can also be taken to reduce inflammatory or swelling symptoms. These are usually prescribed but may be available over-the-counter depending on strength.
An anaphylactic reaction can feature some of the same egg allergy symptoms. But it tends to be systemic meaning that it affects more than one part of your body and may involve your airways, breathing and circulation.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
Anaphylaxis can be fatal and anyone experiencing these signs or symptoms needs urgent medical treatment. Call an ambulance.
Epinephrine is the main medication used to treat anaphylaxis. It’s another name for the hormone adrenaline. Your healthcare provider may prescribe it if they think you’re at risk of a severe allergic reaction. It comes in an auto-injector. That’s an easy-to-use injection you can administer to yourself.
Egg allergy symptoms develop after your body’s immune system becomes sensitized to proteins in egg whites, egg yolks or both.
Always carry two auto-injectors with you as one dose may not be enough. Seek immediate medical attention even if you feel better after having a shot of epinephrine because some people with anaphylaxis can have a delayed secondary allergic reaction.
And teach family and friends how to use an auto-injector as this prepares them for emergencies.
Medical alert bracelets let people know how to help you.
Egg allergy symptoms develop after your body’s immune system becomes sensitized to proteins in egg whites, egg yolks or both. Your body misinterprets egg as harmful and produces Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to protect itself.
Egg whites contain the proteins that are most likely to cause an allergic reaction. But if you have egg allergy you must avoid both. Even if you can tolerate egg yolks, there’s a risk of cross-contamination with egg white protein because the two parts can’t be fully separated.
Speak to your healthcare provider if you think you or your child has egg allergy. They’ll check your symptoms and family medical history. A daily log of what you eat and drink can help to determine if egg allergy is causing the symptoms. Here are some of the possible steps involved in allergy testing.
1. Your healthcare provider may suggest a skin prick test. A drop of liquid, containing egg white or egg yolk proteins, is put on the skin of a part of your body such as your forearm and pricked with a needle tip. If the skin turns red or appears darker after a few minutes you could have egg allergy.
Simple guide to allergy testing
2. If the results are inconclusive, you may need an allergy blood test to check for IgE antibodies. A positive test means you could have an egg allergy. The more detailed component blood test looks for specific egg proteins. That can show if you’re sensitized to egg white or yolk. It can also distinguish between a primary allergy to chicken eggs and cross-reactions to very similar proteins in other types of bird egg. For instance, duck, goose, turkey or quail eggs.
3. Egg allergies can cause IgE, mixed IgE or non-IgE reactions.IgE reactions usually develop quickly, while non-IgE reactions can take up to two days to appear. Mixed IgE and non-IgE egg allergies can be more difficult to diagnose since they may not show up in blood results. If it’s still unclear, your healthcare provider may recommend an oral food challenge. This involves eating small amounts of egg in increasing amounts while being watched for a reaction.
4. Depending on your medical history, they may suggest an endoscopy, which is an internal examination using a camera.
People often ask, can you develop egg allergy later in life? Adult onset is possible but it’s rare. This is typically an allergy of childhood. And most children outgrow egg allergy by the age of six.
Involve children in discussions around food when the time is right. This will help them make decisions about their egg allergy as they get older. Children may sometimes not reveal their lack of understanding, so use simple language.
If your child is still allergic to egg when they get to school, speak to your healthcare provider about putting together an allergy action plan. It’s important they understand how they can avoid eggs and know what to do if they come into contact with their allergen by mistake.
Food allergy or cross-reaction?
Learning where you’re likely to find egg is essential if you want to keep symptoms at bay. Read packaging and ingredient labels carefully. Translation apps can help you check menus and packaging for allergens when you’re travelling.
Some foods we don’t associate with egg may still contain it. For example, chips and salad dressings. There can even be allergenic proteins in egg substitutes.
It isn’t just what you eat that you need to be careful of. Egg can be found in non-food products too. If you have a severe egg allergy it’s good to mindful when choosing soap, cosmetics, hair masks, shampoo and creams.
Here are some basic avoidance measures you can build into your everyday life. Read lots more tips in our food allergy article:
Some vaccines contain egg, for instance the one for yellow fever. The flu vaccine doesn’t anymore, so if you’re allergic to eggs you should be able to have it.
Ask your healthcare provider for advice. They may suggest a skin prick test to check if you could be allergic to egg before taking certain vaccines.
Skin allergies: signs,
causes and more
You can’t cure allergy but there is a process that aims to change the way your immune system reacts to egg. It’s known as desensitization and it involves repeated exposure to your allergen over time.
Contact with a food allergen carries the risk of causing a severe allergic reaction affecting your whole body. So these treatments are always undertaken with the utmost care. There is currently no FDA approved therapy. Speak to your healthcare provider to find out more.
Egg allergy symptoms can vary from mild skin inflammation to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Different types of bird eggs can cause allergic reactions but hen egg is one of the most common food allergies in children. Milder symptoms may respond to antihistamine. Epinephrine is the main medication used to treat anaphylaxis. But cutting egg out of your diet is the main way to lower the risk of symptoms. Speak with your healthcare provider for advice on all of this and on possible long-term treatments.
Last medically reviewed on 15.11.2022.