What Should You Know About an Egg Allergy?
When it comes to food allergies, reactions to eggs and egg-containing foods are among the most commonly occurring. An egg allergy normally affects infants and children, and in most cases, disappears before adolescence.
Usually, an allergic reaction to eggs happens shortly after the exposure to the allergen, but it also may take up to several hours until the symptoms appear. The symptoms caused by egg allergies may vary from mild to severe. The most common of them include skin rash and hives, as well as nasal and digestive symptoms. A life-threatening allergic reaction leading to anaphylaxis is also possible with egg allergies, though it is quite rare.
What Symptoms Can Egg Allergies Cause?
The symptoms caused by allergies to eggs and egg products may vary depending on a person. Some people may react to the trigger within some minutes after consuming an egg, while other will experience the symptoms only a few hours later.
Most allergic reactions to eggs result in skin inflammation, rash and hives. When exposed to eggs, people allergic to them may also have nausea, cramps, vomiting and other digestive problems, as well as stuffy or runny nose and sneezing (the symptoms of allergic rhinitis). Wheezing, coughing, breath shortness and other symptoms related to asthma are common with egg allergies, too.
In rare cases, an allergic reaction to eggs may lead to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that requires an instant injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). The signs of an anaphylactic reaction include difficulty breathing caused by the constriction of airways, abdominal pain, cramps, tachycardia, and a severe drop in blood pressure. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek for medical assistance immediately.
If you or your child have shown any level of sensitivity to eggs, you should see a doctor. If it is possible, experts recommend visiting a doctor when the reaction is occurring. The reactions caused by an egg allergy may have different levels of severity each time you are exposed to eggs. Thus, having a mild allergic reaction once doesn’t mean you can’t have a serious one the next time.
People with severe egg allergies are recommended to carry an epinephrine shot, in case of an emergency. There are special devices called autoinjectors that make it easier to carry and use the epinephrine shot, when needed.
Why Do Allergic Reactions Occur?
Allergic reactions to food triggers like eggs happen when your immune system mistakenly recognizes an egg protein as a potentially harmful substance. Every time an allergic person gets into contact with eggs and egg-containing products, his immune system releases chemicals such as histamine and others that are responsible for the allergy symptoms.
Allergy-triggering proteins are present in both egg yolks and egg whites, but egg whites are much more likely to cause a reaction. In addition, if a breastfeeding mother eats eggs, egg proteins contained in her breast milk may trigger an allergy in the infant.
Who Is at Risk of Having an Egg Allergy?
As it was mentioned earlier, reactions to eggs are more common among children. In fact, young age is one of the risk factors for an egg allergy, since mature digestive system is more persistent to food allergies.
Having atopic dermatitis increases the risk of developing food allergies, including allergies to eggs.
It is also worth mentioning that being allergic to egg protein also increases the risk of developing conditions including: allergies to other foods (including peanuts, soy and milk); allergies to grass pollen, pet dander, and dust mites; atopic dermatitis and other skin allergies, and asthma.
How to Prevent an Allergic Reaction to Eggs?
It is not possible to cure allergies to eggs be with some magic pills. The best way to prevent the allergic reaction is to avoid eggs and egg-containing foods. Experts recommend some tips that help to stay away from the allergy triggers.
The most basic thing is to read food labels and avoid those that contain any traces of eggs. When eating out, inform your server about your allergy and make sure your meal is prepared without using eggs, in any amounts.
If you or your child have an allergy, especially severe one, you may want to wear an allergy ID bracelet (or necklace). All the caregivers of an allergic child should about his condition, including babysitters, teachers, and relatives.
Finally, breastfeeding mothers are recommended to avoid eggs and food that may contain egg traces, as egg proteins may affect a child through the breast milk.
Eggs are a common ingredient of many food products: they are contained in baked goods, breaded foods, pastas, mayonnaise, marshmallows, processed meat products, meringue, marzipan, frostings, puddings, salad dressing, pretzels, etc.
There are certain terms indicating that egg proteins may be contained in processed foods. Those include: globulin, albulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, vitelin, as well as terms starting with “ova” or “ovo”.
You may be also exposed to eggs through cross-contamination, which is common when you eat out or in other people’s houses.
However, in some cases, even food labelled as “egg-free” may contain traces of egg protein, therefore you should be especially cautious when buying some foods.
How Vaccination Is Related to Egg Allergies?
Vaccines are special shots that are used to prevent various illnesses. Some of them contain egg proteins that may trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
For instance, some people with egg allergies can develop a reaction after getting a yellow fever vaccination. These vaccines are given to people who travel to places with an increased risk of contracting yellow fever. Experts don’t recommend that people with egg allergies get this type of vaccination. However, if there is a need, you may get vaccinated under a medical supervision.
Vaccines against measles mumps rubella (MMR) contain traces of egg proteins, but they are normally safe for children allergic to eggs. In some cases, flu or influenza vaccines contain a little bit of egg proteins. However, these vaccines, even those that don’t contain eggs, are only approved for adults older than 18 years. Most people with egg allergies can tolerate these vaccines without any problems. However, if you do have an allergy, it is recommended that you check with your doctor before getting a flu vaccination.
Other vaccines that potentially contain egg proteins are usually not dangerous for people allergic to an egg protein. Yet, it is always a good idea to get tested before the vaccination to avoid a serious reaction.