7 Common Symptoms of an Egg Allergy Reaction
UpdatedNovember 1, 2023
Egg is among eight allergens that need special labels according to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Interestingly, egg allergy is also the second most common food allergy in the US.
More importantly, egg allergy is among the most prevalent food allergies in childhood, affecting 1 to 2% of children. This underscores the importance of recognizing and effectively managing this condition for a safe and healthy lifestyle.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the most common symptoms of an egg allergy reaction.
🔑 Key Takeaways
- Understanding egg allergy involves recognizing the immune system's overreaction to specific egg proteins, leading to various allergic reactions upon consumption.
- The major allergy-causing components in eggs are primarily found in egg whites, with ovomucoid being the dominant allergen.
- Egg allergy symptoms may manifest as skin issues, digestive problems, respiratory distress, or runny or stuffy nose, often appearing within two hours after egg consumption.
- Preventing egg allergy reactions involves vigilant label-checking, caution when dining out, and informing caregivers about the allergy.
- Breastfeeding mothers with infants at risk for egg allergies should be aware that egg proteins can pass through breast milk.
- Vaccination considerations for individuals with egg allergies include the yellow fever vaccine, while recent guidance suggests flu vaccines may be safe.
What is an Egg Allergy?
When a person has an egg allergy, their immune system, which typically defends against infections, reacts too strongly to certain proteins found in eggs. If a person consumes a product containing an egg, their body thinks it's being attacked and tries very hard to protect itself. This can cause an allergic reaction, which might show up as various symptoms.
What Causes an Egg Allergy?
In the case of egg allergies, both egg yolks and egg whites contain proteins that can trigger allergies. However, the five main allergy-causing components are found in the egg white, namely:
- Ovomucoid: Accounts for 10–15% of the protein in egg white and exhibits high thermostability and resistance to digestion. In contrast, the other proteins are more susceptible to changes when exposed to heat or digestion.
- Ovalbumin: The main protein found in egg white and makes up about 54% to 58% of the total egg white protein. It is most notable for its diverse range of biological functions, including its abilities to combat cancer, lower blood pressure, fight against microbes, act as an antioxidant, and modulate the immune system.
- Ovotransferrin: A versatile protein that binds and transports iron, inhibits bacterial growth, kills bacteria, counters viruses, and regulates the immune system.
- Egg White Lysozyme: An enzyme known for its natural ability to kill bacteria.
- Ovomucin: A sulphated glycoprotein that makes up approximately 3.5% of the total protein in egg white. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that ovomucin possesses anti-tumor properties.
While ovalbumin is the prevalent protein in egg white, it's ovomucoid that's seen as the dominant allergen in hen egg white.
🎉 Fun Fact
Currently, the lysozyme from chicken egg whites is the only one utilized in industrial food applications.
What Are The Common Symptoms of Egg Allergies?
Egg allergies mostly cause skin issues like hives and swelling. But they can also lead to problems like vomiting or shortness of breath. Signs of an egg allergy often appear shortly after eating eggs, but sometimes they might take up to 2 hours to appear.
Here are some of the common symptoms of egg allergies:
1. Hives (Urticaria)
Hives are a sudden appearance of swollen, light red bumps on the skin. People might call them wheals or welts. They can be round or uneven and come in different sizes, from tiny dots to big patchy areas. Their appearance can differ from one person to another.
2. Skin Rash
An egg allergy rash may differ from hives in appearance. Hives are usually elevated bumps on the skin. In contrast, egg allergy rashes are often flat, uneven, or flaky, though they can sometimes be raised.
The severity and duration of these rashes may vary. A way to tell hives apart from other rashes is that hives usually show up and vanish quite swiftly without leaving a trace. Rashes, on the other hand, don't usually behave this way—they tend to stick around.
3. Digestive Problems
Some individuals with an egg allergy may be able to consume baked goods and other foods with eggs as long as they have been cooked for an extended time at a high temperature.
A study explained that when we cook eggs, some of the allergy-triggering proteins alter their epitope configuration, which makes them less likely to cause a reaction. Ovalbumin, for instance, is sensitive to heat, while ovomucoid is usually not affected.
4. Respiratory Distress
Egg allergies can lead to respiratory issues like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Understanding these reactions is crucial. In severe cases, it's important to know how to respond promptly, including seeking emergency medical help.
Additionally, egg allergies can increase the risk of asthma. A study with a small group of 1218 kids found that 80% of those with an egg allergy also had asthma. This means they were five times more likely to have asthma than those without an egg allergy.
5. Runny or Stuffy Nose
Allergic rhinitis, often characterized by a stuffy or runny nose, can be connected to egg allergies. Managing nasal symptoms involves implementing allergy-friendly practices. Over-the-counter remedies may also provide relief.
Source: Doctor Rennie's Blog
Angioedema is a type of swelling similar to hives, but it occurs beneath the skin rather than on the surface. The swelling typically happens near the eyes and lips, but it can also occur on the hands, feet, and throat. It might appear in a line or be more widespread.
7. Mouth and Throat Itching
In cases of egg allergies that develop in adulthood, some people may experience throat itching. Although developing a sudden egg allergy in adults is uncommon, there have been documented instances of them occurring.
Although egg allergies are less likely to lead to anaphylaxis, it's still possible. Recognizing its symptoms is crucial. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, a life-threatening emergency that mandates immediate administration of epinephrine and a prompt visit to the emergency room.
Indications of anaphylaxis include:
- Throat swelling that can lead to breathing difficulties.
- Stomach pain and cramps. Nausea or vomiting may also be present.
- Rapid pulse
- Shock, that is characterized by a sharp drop in blood pressure leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness.
In the following section, we'll explore effective measures and lifestyle adjustments that can significantly reduce the likelihood of encountering egg allergy triggers.
How is an Egg Allergy Diagnosed?
To accurately diagnose an egg allergy, healthcare professionals employ a comprehensive approach. They first ensure that symptoms aren't stemming from other conditions, like food intolerance, which is typically less severe and doesn't involve the immune system.
- Skin Prick Test: This procedure involves pricking and exposing the skin to small amounts of egg proteins. A raised bump (hive) may appear at the test site if an egg allergy is present. It's recommended to have this test performed and interpreted by allergy specialists.
- Blood Test: This test gauges the immune system's response to eggs by measuring specific antibodies in the bloodstream. Elevated levels of these antibodies may signal an allergic reaction.
- Food Challenge: Conducted under the supervision of an allergy specialist, this test entails administering a small amount of egg to observe for any adverse reactions. Due to the potential for severe reactions, it's crucial to have a specialist oversee this test.
- Food Tracking or Elimination Diet: Your healthcare provider might request you to maintain a detailed food diary and gradually eliminate specific foods, including eggs, to assess whether symptoms improve.
These diagnostic methods, carried out by trained professionals, are crucial in confirming or ruling out egg allergy, ensuring accurate and effective management.
📰 Helpful Articles
Discover your food sensitivities by getting a food allergy test and gain insights into your dietary needs today. Additionally, if you’re struggling to pinpoint what's causing your sneezing, coughing, and itching - try at-home allergy tests! Check out Buoy Health’s article on the Best At Home Allergy Test Kits.
How Do I Prevent An Egg Allergy Reaction?
Understanding the symptoms of an egg allergy is crucial for timely intervention. However, prevention plays an equally vital role in managing this condition. Here are some steps you can take to prevent allergic reactions and manage them if they occur:
- Check Food Labels: Pay close attention to food labels, as even small traces of eggs can cause a reaction. Watch out for these alternative terms denoting eggs, including:
- Words starting with "ova" or "ovo," such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) allergen labeling refers to chicken eggs. However, proteins in chicken eggs closely resemble those from ducks, geese, quail, and other birds.
- Exercise Caution When Dining Out: Be vigilant when eating out, as restaurant staff may not always be certain about the egg content in dishes.
- Inform Caregivers: Ensure that caregivers, such as babysitters, teachers, or relatives, know your child’s egg allergy. Provide them with clear instructions on what to do in an emergency. Given that egg allergy is more prevalent in childhood, it's crucial to take these precautions.
- Learn Alternatives: You can find ready-made powders in stores that can be used instead of eggs for homemade baking. Some have also found success by substituting each egg in a recipe with a mixture of 1 packet of gelatin and 2 tablespoons of warm water.
- Breastfeeding Considerations: If you're breastfeeding, avoiding eggs may be necessary, as proteins can pass through breast milk and trigger a reaction. Experts detected ovalbumin, a protein found in egg whites, in the breast milk of mothers who were tested after consuming eggs.
- Cross-Contamination Risks: Be mindful of the potential for cross-contamination in homemade dishes. Store foods with eggs in a different section of your kitchen to prevent it from mixing with your child's meals. Use dish soap and hot water to clean dishes and utensils, making sure to remove any egg residue.
- Vaccinations and Egg Allergy: Some vaccines contain egg proteins, potentially posing a risk. Here are some of the vaccines you need to watch out for:
- Yellow Fever Vaccine: The yellow fever vaccine does contain a significant egg protein ranging from 2.4 – 4.4 micrograms/ml. As a result, it's not recommended for individuals with an egg allergy. In cases where an egg-allergic individual needs the yellow fever vaccine, a specialized allergy clinic will conduct a thorough risk-benefit analysis.
- Flu (Influenza) Vaccines: In the past, people who have egg allergies avoided the seasonal flu vaccine due to its small amount of egg protein. However, starting from the 2023-2024 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that individuals with egg allergies no longer need to avoid the flu vaccine or undergo special testing before receiving it. Additionally, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has stated that patients with egg allergies now have access to two recently developed influenza vaccines. One is created using mammalian cells instead of avian cells, and the other employs recombinant DNA technology.
Remember, it's always important to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if there's uncertainty or a prior history of egg-related reactions.
💡 Did You Know?
Severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, from vaccines are very rare. In a study with over 25.1 million doses of various vaccines given to both kids and adults, anaphylaxis was extremely low, about 1.31 cases per 1 million doses for all vaccines and 1.35 cases per million doses for seasonal flu vaccines.
When To Seek Medical Attention?
If you or your child experiences signs or symptoms of a food allergy after consuming eggs or an egg-based product, it's important to consult a doctor. If feasible, try to visit the doctor while the allergic reaction is still ongoing, as this can aid in reaching a diagnosis.
Here's what you need to prepare:
- Be mindful of any pre-appointment instructions. Inquire if there are any specific steps you should take before your visit. For instance, if allergy testing is planned, the doctor may advise you to refrain from using antihistamines prior to the test.
- Jot down all symptoms, even those that may not seem directly related to the reason for your appointment.
- Compile a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements that you or your child are currently taking.
- Write down any questions or concerns you'd like to discuss with the doctor during the appointment. This ensures that you cover all relevant topics and get the information you need.
In the event of signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, it is crucial to seek immediate emergency care and administer an epinephrine autoinjector if one has been prescribed.
Practical prevention methods like diligent label-checking and clear communication with caregivers are key to reducing exposure to egg allergens.
For those considering immunization, being mindful of vaccine components containing egg proteins is crucial. Equally vital is recognizing anaphylaxis symptoms, as immediate administration of epinephrine and seeking prompt medical attention are paramount in such situations.
FAQs on Egg Allergies
Are there any alternative protein sources for individuals with egg allergies?
Yes, there are several alternative protein sources for individuals with egg allergies. Some options include meat, fish, dairy products, legumes (like beans and lentils), and tofu.
What should I do if I suspect my child has an egg allergy but they're too young for testing?
If you suspect your child has an egg allergy, it's important to consult a pediatrician or allergist. They can guide you on allergen avoidance strategies and may recommend testing when appropriate.
Is it possible to outgrow an egg allergy, and how can I know if my child has done so?
Yes, many children outgrow egg allergies. Regular follow-up with an allergist and supervised oral food challenges can help determine if a child has outgrown their egg allergy.
Can individuals with egg allergies receive the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccines safely, considering it's grown in egg cultures?
Yes, contrary to a common belief, it's generally safe for individuals with egg allergies to receive the MMR vaccine, even though it's produced in chick embryo cell cultures. The amount of egg protein in the vaccine is extremely small and not typically a concern for those with egg allergies.
Are there any non-food products I should be aware of that may contain egg derivatives?
Yes, some non-food products like certain cosmetics, shampoos, and vaccines may contain egg derivatives. It's important to read labels carefully and consult with manufacturers if you have concerns.