written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• updated: 1/9/2011
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network lists allergic reactions to eggs as one of the eight most common food allergies. Learn more about this allergy and how to protect yourself from serious reactions.
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What is an Egg Allergy?
Like other allergies, this type of allergy occurs when the body responds as if the egg is a dangerous foreign substance. In some children, allergic reactions to eggs occur before the age of 5 due to an underdeveloped immune system. KidsHealth explains that most children have a reaction to the protein in egg whites, although some do experience an allergic reaction to the protein found in egg yolks. Fortunately, some children outgrow this type of allergy. For those who don’t, eating at restaurants and anywhere outside the home poses a life-long problem.
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Signs and Symptoms
This type of allergy has several signs and symptoms. Possible skin changes include redness, swelling, hives and an itchy rash. Egg allergies may also cause digestive problems such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea. Serious reactions may cause rapid heartbeat, wheezing, trouble breathing or low blood pressure. The most serious type of reaction leads to anaphylaxis, a whole-body reaction caused by the release of histamine in the body. Anaphylaxis may cause heart palpitations, hives, fainting, anxiety, abnormal breath sounds, slurred speech, difficulty breathing and wheezing.
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An allergy skin test helps doctors diagnose the presence of egg allergy in children. During this test, a doctor introduces a small amount of the allergen to the skin. If this results in the formation of a raised, red spot on the skin, this indicates an egg allergy. A doctor may also take a blood sample and use it to conduct additional tests.
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The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid eating eggs and foods made with eggs. Since many foods contain eggs or egg proteins, this is more difficult than it sounds. Anyone with this type of allergy should learn to read and interpret food labels. You should avoid products that contain egg yolk, powdered egg, dried egg, whole egg and other types of egg. Some food products contain egg proteins and other egg components, so you should also avoid products that have globulin, albumin, ovoglobulin, lysozyme and ovomucin on their labels.
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For those with egg allergies, it’s difficult to dine at restaurants and catering facilities. Many small facilities do not publish information about the ingredients they use, making it difficult to determine which dishes contain eggs and which do not. Several large chain restaurants do publish information on common allergens like eggs, soy and shellfish. These chains include Dairy Queen, Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday, Red Lobster, P.F. Chang’s, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Domino’s Pizza, Longhorn Steakhouse and Chik-Fil-A.
It’s important to remember that cross-contamination can occur easily in a restaurant kitchen. Even if a restaurant advertises an egg-free dish, they cannot guarantee that it will not come into contact with eggs during preparation and cooking. If you have a severe allergic reaction to eggs, you may not want to risk ordering an “egg-free" meal. If you do decide to dine out, carry a food allergy card that lists your allergies. If you have an allergic reaction, the card will alert medical responders to your condition.