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An overview of egg allergies and detailed discussion about the causes, symptoms to look for, and possible treatments.

Eggs allergies are the most common form of food-related conditions, second only to milk allergies. Experts estimate that about two percent of all children are allergic to eggs, but there are also promising study results revealing that, in the majority of cases, this allergy is outgrown. But until that happens, parents and caregivers have to know all about the causes, symptoms, potential life-threatening risks, and implications of caring for a child with an egg allergy. 

What causes an egg allergy?

  • Proteins from eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Egg yolks

People who suffer from egg allergies have an overly-alert immune system. Proteins from eggs are identified as being potentially harmful, in which case the body reacts to protect itself. Both egg whites and yolks can cause an allergic reaction, but egg white allergy is more common. 

Children and adults to already suffer from eczema are more prone to developing an egg allergy. So are those who already have a family history of food allergies, or those who suffer from asthma. It’s important to know that people who are allergic to a specific type of egg (like a hen’s egg), could also be allergic to other eggs (like those coming from quails, geese, ducks, etc.). There are also very rare cases where people who suffer from egg allergies can’t consume chicken

What are the main symptoms of egg allergy?

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of body parts
  • Skin reactions
  • Anaphylaxis

When it comes to food allergies, the symptoms are pretty much the same, regardless of the allergen. People who suffer from egg allergies and end up ingesting egg whites or yolks, can end up having irregular heartbeats, runny or stuffy nose, difficulty in breathing, swelling of different body parts, and several skin reactions

In case of anaphylaxis, the body can go into shock, preceded or followed by acute abdominal pain, uncontrolled pulse, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, and loss of consciousness. If your child goes into anaphylactic shock, the very first thing that has to be done is to administer an adrenaline shot, followed by an immediate call to 911.

How is egg allergy diagnosed?

Diagnosis of an egg allergy follows the same steps as with most other food allergies. Proper diagnosis is important, as doctors have to separate the symptoms from those of a food intolerance, which is not a life-threatening condition. Doctors may perform skin prick or blood tests, but these are believed to be inconclusive in a lot of cases. 

The most reliable ways to diagnose a food allergy is by either turning to an elimination diet, or by testing the suspected allergen on the patient, in a controlled environment. The former method requires the patient to have a strict food diary, with detailed information about every meal, as well as any potential symptoms. The latter method implies having the child consume a small amount of allergen and see how they react. Of course, in case of any complication, the child will immediately be cared for, as this all happens in the presence of trained medical staff. 

Can egg allergy be treated?

Egg allergies cannot be treated, so the best solution is to avoid the allergen altogether. Doctors will typically recommend antihistamine medication to help alleviate some mild allergy symptoms, but the presence of an adrenaline pen is crucial. Remember that antihistamines are only effective in treating mild allergies and can never act as a substitute for the EpiPen

Research has revealed that it is possible for children to outgrow egg allergies, although there is no clear data to indicate when it occurs exactly. An American study conducted back in 2007 has shown that four percent of the children actively participating in the study outgrew their egg allergies by the time they were four. Out of the study participants, 68 percent overcame the same allergy by the age of 16. 

Other studies conducted in the UK have revealed that outgrowing an egg allergy is a gradual process. In the first instance, children can consume foods that have well-cooked eggs inside them but might still display a negative reaction when consuming lightly-cooked eggs. Even when they are able to consume an egg, children may still get mild skin rashes if the actual egg is rubbed onto it. According to research, this is the final step in eliminating the allergy. However, there are children who, after outgrowing their allergy, begin to dislike the taste of eggs. 

Egg allergies and vaccines

Certain types of vaccines contain egg protein, so it’s important to know when a child should be vaccinated if they suffer from egg allergy. A doctor should provide parents with all the related information. 

MMR vaccines (short for “measles-mumps-rubella”) are generally cultured on chick embryo cells. However, they are considered safe for children, because they don’t contain actual egg protein, so the chances of allergic reactions are inexistent. According to the British National Formulary, even children that have experienced anaphylactic shocks due to egg allergies can be vaccinated.

Flu vaccines are prepared on hen eggs. This means that they could contain a small amount of egg protein. Research has shown that even children that suffer from severe egg allergies are not exposed to any anaphylaxis risks. 

The yellow vaccine fever can cause another interaction between its composition and the body of a person who suffers from egg allergies. That's because the vaccines contain tiny amounts of egg protein. A doctor should assess the situation before recommending the yellow fever vaccine, although experts believe that split doses of the vaccines don’t have a high grade of risk.

Conclusion

Egg allergies should be treated the same as every other food allergy, especially in children who have yet to develop a solid immune system. Paying attention to labels is very important, especially in the child’s early life stages. Even if children can outgrow this allergy, it’s important to consult a doctor and see what the gradual steps are to follow in order to introduce eggs into a child’s diet. Mothers of infants should know that if their child suffers from an egg allergy, it’s best to avoid consuming eggs while breastfeeding. Proteins can pass on from mother to child through breast milk.

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