What is an Egg Allergy?

Mary McMahon

An egg allergy is an allergy to certain proteins found in eggs. Many children develop egg allergies, and it is not uncommon to grow out of the allergy by age five, although some people will remain allergic for life. For people with egg allergies, special care needs to be taken when buying food, as eggs can end up in some very surprising places.

Egg allergies can cause hives.
Egg allergies can cause hives.

When people develop an egg allergy, their bodies mistakenly determine that the proteins found in eggs are dangerous, and they develop antibodies to these proteins. When the proteins are introduced to the body, the immune system goes into overdrive to attack the “invaders,” and people can experience symptoms like eczema, wheezing, hives, rashes, runny nose, and gastrointestinal distress. In rare cases, people develop anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction which can lead to death.

People with egg allergies may have a flare-up of eczema when they ingest eggs.
People with egg allergies may have a flare-up of eczema when they ingest eggs.

Egg allergies usually involve the proteins found in egg whites only, although some people react to yolks as well. In rare cases, people may also be allergic to poultry like chicken, turkey, and duck, developing an allergic reaction when they eat these meats. Extremely sensitive individuals can develop a reaction to even trace amounts of eggs, which can become a serious problem. Living with an egg allergy can be challenging, as it is important to check on the contents of foods cooked in restaurants or by friends who may not realize the importance of the allergy.

Many infants are allergic to eggs, although some adults are as well.
Many infants are allergic to eggs, although some adults are as well.

Someone with an egg allergy obviously needs to avoid eating eggs, but he or she may need to steer clear of baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and glazed breads. Many foaming drinks have egg whites added for body, and eggs are also sometimes used in various stocks and sauces, along with bases for foods such as ice cream. Many nations have labeling laws which force manufacturers to disclose the presence of eggs in foods, but in some countries, ingredients containing egg may be hidden under the terms globulin, albumin, apovitellenin, livetin, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovitellin, or phosvitin.

Someone with an egg allergy will likely need to avoid cookies and other baked treats.
Someone with an egg allergy will likely need to avoid cookies and other baked treats.

Vaccines can also be dangerous for people with egg allergies, as many vaccines are cultured in egg whites. For someone with an egg allergy, a doctor may recommend abstaining from vaccinations, or doing allergy testing with a sample of the vaccine to see how reactive the patient will be. If vaccination is deemed vitally medically necessary, as in the case of someone vulnerable to flu, the doctor may vaccinate in a hospital or allergy clinic so that if the patient experiences a severe allergic reaction, medical care will be readily available.

A topical cream can be applied to alleviate itchy skin.
A topical cream can be applied to alleviate itchy skin.

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