Egg allergy or even just an egg intolerance is quite common, especially among children. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 2 percent of children have an egg allergy.
So, chances are, you or someone you know has to live with an egg allergy, too. That’s why it’s important to understand how this allergy affects the body. With this knowledge, you can manage the allergy, eat well, and stay healthy, all without any eggs. Keep reading to find out how.
Why Are Eggs an Allergen?
Eggs are such a dietary staple and seem pretty harmless. After all, they can be found in so many different cuisines. What’s more, we use eggs from sunrise to sunset for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. So, why are eggs an allergen?
An individual develops an egg allergy when the body overreacts to the proteins in the egg. This goes for the proteins both in the egg white and in the yolk. Instead of seeing the egg as a nourishing food, the body sees it as a threat to the system, and the immune system gears up to fight back.
In short, the body thinks it’s defending itself against a nasty invader and produces chemicals to protect itself. Unfortunately, these chemicals cause egg allergies in individuals.
Is an Egg Allergy Genetic?
Allergies, including an egg allergy, are, in fact, hereditary. Therefore, if you or your partner have an allergy, this increases the likelihood of your child developing this same allergy. But it goes even further than simple genetics.
One study suggests that gender can influence which allergies are passed down. For example, the father’s food allergy may more likely go to the son. Similarly, if the mother is allergic to milk, the daughter may likely develop a milk allergy, too.
Therefore, if either one of the parents has an egg allergy, it’s a good idea to consult your medical care provider to understand when it’s best to introduce eggs to your child.
What Causes Egg Allergy?
As we’ve seen above, genetics is one cause of an egg allergy. However, there are other factors that can lead to an individual developing this condition. Let’s consider a handful of them.
Some vaccines contain egg proteins, and when administered to babies, this can trigger an allergic reaction. Which vaccines should you look out for?
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- Flu shots (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if an individual has an egg allergy, they should avoid the nasal spray flu vaccine.)
- Yellow fever vaccine
Therefore, if you or your partner have had an egg allergy, it’s recommended to discuss this with your primary care provider before administering vaccines, which may trigger an egg allergy.
Furthermore, it’s recommended to administer vaccines in a doctor’s office, rather than a local pharmacy. This way, if there is an allergic reaction, there will be trained medical staff to assist the individual.
Egg Allergy Symptoms
So, what happens when someone has an allergic reaction to eggs? Symptoms of egg allergy vary from individual to individual, but these are common reactions:
- Asthma-related problems, including difficulty breathing, wheezing, tightness in the throat, and hoarseness
- Nasal congestion, including sneezing and runny nose
- Digestive problems, including stomachache, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Skin inflammation, like hives, red spots, and swelling
- Eye irritation, including itchiness, tearing and swelling
- Decreased blood pressure
- Anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction. Luckily, this is uncommon for individuals with an egg allergy. However, if your child does experience anaphylactic shock due to an egg allergy, seek immediate medical attention. It is likely that your child will be prescribed a portable injector with epinephrine or EpiPen, as they’re commonly referred to.
How to Handle Allergic Reactions to Eggs
If you believe your child is allergic to eggs, it’s important to monitor it carefully and bring it to the attention of your family doctor. That’s because there is a possibility that the symptoms of egg allergy will worsen as time goes on.
But with the exception of anaphylaxis – which requires immediate medical attention – what can you do when your child does experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms?
In the case of asthma-related problems, nasal congestion, and coughing, your doctor may recommend antihistamines to alleviate their symptoms.
Otherwise, it’s important to make the individual feel as comfortable as possible. Cooling compresses on the eyes can ease discomfort. And nourishing foods, including chicken broth, can help to soothe a disrupted digestive system.
What Does an Egg Allergy Look Like?
So, how can you recognize and identify an egg allergy or even a milder case, such as egg intolerance or egg sensitivity? It’s typical to see a reaction within a short amount of time after eating the egg (or product containing egg).
But the truth is, eggs are found in many different food sources (we’ll get to that soon), so it’s not always easy to know if your child is reacting to egg proteins or not.
If you notice a reaction, see your family doctor, who can help you identify an egg allergy with a skin-prick test or a blood test. For the skin-prick test, a small amount of egg protein is injected under the skin of the arm, and if a reddish spot develops, it can indicate an egg allergy.
A blood test, on the other hand, looks for immunoglobulin E antibodies, which the body produces to fight against eggs.
Finally, an egg-elimination diet might also be suggested to rule out an egg allergy. With this method, you remove all eggs and egg-containing foods from the diet. Then, when you reintroduce the egg into the diet and notice a reaction, it’s a good indication that there’s an egg allergy.
Hidden Sources of Egg Ingredients
The best way to live with an egg allergy is to simply avoid eggs, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. That’s because eggs show up in a lot of different foods. Here’s a run-down of the common places where eggs can be found.
- Ice cream
- Cakes, creampies, candies
- Dessert mixes
- Icing and frosting
- French toast
- Omelets, quiche, soufflé
- Baked goods, including muffins, cupcakes, cookies
- Breads, buns
- Breaded and battered foods
- Baby foods
- Processed meat, including hot dogs, cold cuts, salami, meatloaf and meatballs
- Salad dressings
- Béarnaise sauce
- Consommé soup
- Hollandaise sauce
As you can see, eggs show up in many different foods, so it’s very important to read ingredient labels.
But a word of warning: the word “egg” might not be listed in the ingredients, and can make you think the product is safe for consumption. But eggs can be present in foods when any of the following terms are listed:
- Silica aluminate
Knowing these terms can really help to avoid eggs and the allergic reaction that follows.
How to Get Adequate Nutrition With an Egg Allergy
Eggs are a wonderful source of healthy fats and proteins. In fact, an egg contains all the amino acids, which are necessary for proteins. They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin B12, which is needed to prevent fatigue, weakness, poor memory, and other health problems.
So, if an individual can’t eat eggs, where can he or she obtain good sources of amino acids (proteins), omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12? Here are some suggestions:
- Protein sources: grass-fed beef, organic chicken, bone broth, lentils, wild-caught salmon, black beans, natto, yogurt, goat cheese, and almonds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oil, such as salmon and cod liver oil, mackerel, herring, Alaskan salmon, Albacore tuna, white fish, sardines, anchovies, natto, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds.
- Vitamin B12 sources: beef liver, sardines, mackerel, lamb, wild-caught salmon, nutritional yeast, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, and cottage cheese.
Egg Replacements in Baking
You can still enjoy baked goods even if you can’t eat eggs. That’s because there are many clever egg replacement hacks. Here are just a few ways to replace one egg.
- 1 egg = 2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon oil + 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg = 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored, grass-fed beef gelatin + 3 tablespoons warm water
- 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed banana
- 1 egg = 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 egg = 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg = 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water
Safety Tips if Your Child Has an Egg Allergy
To keep your child safe and healthy outside of the home, be sure to exercise some caution in restaurants, schools, and any other occasions for eating.
If you’re eating out, always notify the server and cook that there is an egg allergy. Sometimes, you can even ask to see an ingredient list to verify that the meal is safe.
And remember, the meal doesn’t have to contain “eggs” per se. It can contain any of the foods listed above and potentially cause a reaction.
Bakeries and baked good stores are also a tricky place to navigate an egg allergy, so always ask the staff about their ingredients.
If your child is enrolled in a school or childcare program, always be sure that their instructors and caretakers understand the allergy and what foods need to be avoided. It might be helpful to write up a clear and concise list of forbidden foods, and laminate it for them. This can be a great referencing tool for them.
Having any allergy always means having to adjust your eating and lifestyle habits. But as you can see, it’s easy to live with an egg allergy with the proper knowledge and information. This way, you can avoid eating eggs and allergic reactions.
And what’s more, you can enjoy peace of mind and even some delicious, egg-free baked goods, too!