Egg allergies 101 – everything you need to know to stay safe with a egg allergy. Includes egg allergy and cross reactions, a list of symptoms, and what you need to avoid to not have a reaction.
The egg allergy is the second most common allergy in children with upwards of 2% of all children being allergic to eggs. Only the milk allergy is more common in people than the egg allergy. If diagnosed as a child, it is possible that they will outgrow the allergy by adulthood. However, there are no guarantees that you or your child will outgrow any allergies, so it is recommended that you always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your routine.
Eggs are common in most baked goods and processed foods that you will find in the grocery stores and in restaurants. Eggs are used to bind and leaven foods, can be found in skin care to help tighten the skin, and is even found in salad dressings, candies, and even wine.
This article walks you through all aspects of an egg allergy, symptoms, what to avoid, what you can still enjoy, and how best to manage your egg allergy.
What is an egg allergy?
An allergy occurs when the body is exposed to the egg protein and develops a strong IgE antibody response. This is the body’s own antibodies working to protect the body from something it sees as a threat, in this case an egg protein. The body responds by triggering the immune system that has different effects on the body (see symptom list below) that can range from mild to life-threatening.
Most children and adults will develop an allergic reaction either immediately, a few minutes, and up to a few hours after consuming eggs. Remember, some people are so allergic to certain foods that even touching the food or smelling the food can cause a reaction.
A list of possible reactions includes:
- Swelling, itching, or irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat
- Asthma attacks
- Eczema on the skin
- Hives, itching rash on the skin
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Cramping and/or pain of the stomach or bowels
- Anaphylactic reaction (see below)
anaphylactic egg allergy
For some people, a life threatening reaction known as an anaphylactic reaction may occur after consuming, touching, or smelling egg or egg by-products. If this happens, please call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Signs and symptoms of this include:
- Swelling or tightening of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Trouble swallowing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Change of normal coloring of the skin in the mucous membranes (inner lips, gums, around the eyes, and nail beds)
- Light skin, check for signs of dark blue tints in the mucous membranes
- Medium skin, check for signs of a gray-green tint in the mucous membranes
- Dark skin, check for signs of a gray or white tint in the mucous membranes
how to manage egg allergies
The best way to manage your egg allergy is to avoid any and all forms of egg and egg by-products.
If after some time you feel you would like to test and see if you are still allergic to egg, consult your doctor and ask about doing a challenge test to gauge your reaction under the supervision of your doctor.
Being Your Own Allergy Advocate
When I was first diagnosed with my plethora of allergies back in the early 1990s, the word allergy was not as prevalent as today, and people really didn’t understand what it meant. Even as pervasive as the word is today, there are still people who don’t really “get” allergies.
Therefore, it is so important for you to be your own allergy advocate. Teach your kids if they have allergies to stick up for themselves and say something.
And if you are certain something is wrong, don’t give up! My primary care physician was unconvinced I had developed a new allergy in my late 20s. He was ready to prescribe an anti-acid medication, assuming I was eating too much fast food. However, I was adamant in my knowing that something was wrong and went to a new allergy specialist. I had my blood checked and my IgE levels were off the charts! We did an elimination diet and saw immediate improvements in my health. Be your own advocate at the doctor’s office, and make sure you take someone with you to help navigate if you need.
Egg Allergy Safety in School and Work
If your child has an egg allergy, make sure to let both the school and their individual teachers know of their allergy. Any medication they might need, including an EpiPen if the reaction is severe, needs to be kept at the school in case of emergencies.
In elementary school, when they have assigned seating, it is easier to maintain a clean workspace for your child. As they go through middle and high school and beyond, make sure to have them wipe down the desk before they use it as there could be oils on the desk after someone ate a granola bar, for example.
In a work environment, you should inform your coworkers of your allergy and ask them to not eat eggs around you or your workspace, especially if your allergy is severe and anaphylactic. Making sure to wipe down surfaces is again important.
Want delicious egg free recipes? Here are some of my favorite!
How to Read a Food Label with an Egg Allergy
Learning how to read food labels is one of the most important things you can do after developing an egg allergy. Always make sure that you read the entire label and not just quickly scan for egg as ingredients can hide under different names.
Sometimes companies will place advisory statements on their label to say things such as, “May Contain” or “Produced in the same facility as…”. These are not required by law but are placed there at the discretion of the company. Talk with your doctor about if you should avoid these food labels as well.
In general, I tend to avoid any and all food products that list my own allergies on these advisory statements. You never know if one day cleaning the machines, an allergen was totally washed away or not. I err on the side of caution with my health and suggest you do the same.
What to Avoid with an Egg Allergy
When looking at a food label, make sure that the ingredient list does not contain any of the following items. The list of foods to avoid is long, and while I’ve done my best to include them all here, I am sure there are more being made and discovered each day. If you know of an allergy name that I’ve missed, write it in the comments below and I’ll be sure to add it to the list!
- Egg (dried, powdered, solids, white, and yolk)
- Cholesterol free egg substitutes (for example, Eggbeaters)
- Egg rolls
- Egg wash
- Meringue (meringue powder)
- Silici albuminate
Eggs are often found in the following products and you must read the labels and contact the companies to ensure you are not eating eggs:
- Artificial flavoring
- Baked goods
- Baked goods in a box (cake mixes, etc)
- Ice cream
- Meatloaf and meatballs
- Natural flavorings
- Protein mixes
- Specialty coffee drinks and bar drinks
- Sauces, including Hollandaise and tartar
Egg Allergies and Vaccines
While this blog is not dedicated to the discussion of vaccine and their use, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about eggs and vaccines. Some vaccines use the egg whites to develop the vaccine and make it work. By the time the vaccine is given, the egg allergy should be gone from the mixture. However, there are some instances where the egg allergen is still present.
If you or your child has an egg allergy it is important to make sure your doctor knows before any shots are received.
The yellow fever vaccine contains egg. The CDC and WHO both state that if you have a severe egg allergy to avoid this vaccine. The MMR vaccine may also contain a trace amount of eggs, though some studies have shown it is safe for people with egg allergies. Depending on your level of severity, you should talk with your doctor.
Flu vaccines may also contain egg. While the standard practice was to avoid the flu shot, there are studies not being done that state the flu shot in safe for use in people allergic to eggs. If you are severely allergic, you might ask your doctor about Flublok, a flu vaccine made without using eggs. It is approved for adult aged 18 to 49.
Above all, it is up to you and your child’s pediatrician on what vaccines to use, if any, in the presence of severe egg allergies.
Egg Allergies and Cross Reactivity with Other Allergens
Hen eggs and the egg whites are filled with a protein that causes the allergic reaction. However, simply taking the yolk out of the egg white is not a safe method of eating the egg as the white has infused into the yolk and total separation can never occur.
Eggs allergies are specific to hen eggs; however, the body can have a difficult time distinguishing between different types of eggs. Therefore, duck, quail, ostrich, geese, turkey, etc. eggs are always recommended to be avoided.
What about chicken meat? Most people with an allergy to eggs can eat chicken meat without any problems. The reaction comes from the protein found in the egg white itself, meaning that the meat is safe. However, there are cases where cross-reactivity can occur. If you think that you are allergic to both the chicken and the egg, stop eating it immediately and contact your doctor.
What You Can Eat with an Egg Allergy
After developing a new allergy, how you eat both at home and out and about is very likely going to change. Cooking at home is going to be the safest option for you and your family as you can ensure no allergens come into contact with the food and no cross contamination can occur. Therefore, make sure your diet is filled with simple whole foods, such as meats, grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils.
Living with allergies has gotten so much better in the past few years thanks to the requirements of labeling all food in grocery stores, as well as the sheer quantity of allergy free alternatives available in most stores.
Some of the best ways to avoid eggs is to look for foods that are designated “vegan”. This means that no animal products, be it meat, dairy, eggs, or honey, is involved in the making of the item. For baked goods, this is especially important as eggs are involved in so many recipes. By sticking to vegan items, you should have less chance for a reaction, though cross contamination can always occur.
When cooking and baking at home, one of my favorite ways to use an egg replacement is with a flax egg. Start by taking one tablespoon of ground flax seeds. Add 3 tablespoons of boiling water. Mix well and let sit for 5 minutes. This gooey flax gel works well in recipes as an egg swap.
want to know the best things to swap for different recipes? make sure you check out my food swap guide!
Eating Out with Egg Allergies
Perhaps the biggest change to your life with an egg allergy will come from the options available to you when dining out. No longer can you just go grab a quick bite to eat, nor will you be able to freely eat at a friend’s house.
The best way to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting sick at restaurants is to research ahead of time. For instance, most restaurants post their menus online, which gives me a chance to figure out if this restaurant would be a safe option. Even if the menu says “allergy friendly” you still should research, because it is really difficult to ensure that a chef or kitchen will wipe off any surfaces, open new bags of ingredients, or even use a different set of gloves when preparing food.
For egg allergies in particular, it is important to ask the restaurant if they have dedicated fryers for their food. Often times the fryer is where the most cross contamination occurs when a food item containing eggs, such as an eggroll, is cooked before your batch of fries.
To that effect, some places I have found to be generally safe include:
- Blaze Pizza
- MOD Pizza
Other Hidden Sources of Egg Not Found in Food
Beyond food, there are places that eggs can hide, making you sick even though you don’t eat eggs anymore! While you won’t be eating these things, you should be aware that a reaction can occur from touching or smelling eggs. These hidden egg places include:
- Medications (make sure you talk to your doctor before stopping medications and ask about switching to a different medication!)
- Skincare products
- Shampoo and body care products
- Hair masks
Make sure you check these places and use the list above to make sure that you and your family are safe from these hidden egg sources!