Egg Allergy: Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment

Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Two percent of children experience allergic reactions after eating eggs, though many outgrow an egg allergy by the time they are sixteen.

Egg allergies are driven by the body’s interaction with certain proteins. The immune system recognizes the protein as a foreign invader, releasing a flood of antibodies and thus creating an allergic reaction. A single egg contains as many as 23 different types of proteins – but most allergens are found in the egg white, rather than the yolk. 

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have an egg allergy, the first step is to seek a diagnosis with an experienced clinician. How do you know if an egg allergy may be present? How is egg allergy effectively diagnosed and treated? In the sections below, we’ll explore each of these questions, providing a comprehensive overview of egg allergy symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Symptoms of an Egg Allergy Reaction

Egg allergy reactions encompass a wide range of gastrointestinal, skin, and respiratory symptoms. Common symptoms of a reaction include:

    • Nasal congestion
    • Sneezing
    • Red or watery eyes
    • Repetitive coughing
    • Hives or rash
    • Swelling of the tongue and/or the lips or around the eyes
    • Vomiting
    • Stomach cramps (and/or abdominal pain)
    • Diarrhea
    • Itchy mouth or throat

A patient may have an egg intolerance or sensitivity, in which egg can be safely consumed with symptoms ranging from mild to uncomfortable. However, in a true egg allergy, consuming eggs or products that include egg proteins can cause severe, life-threatening reactions, such as anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, the immune system releases a flood of chemicals to fight off “harmful” or “invading” proteins, inducing shock. Knowing how to recognize signs of anaphylaxis is crucial, as medical assistance must be sought immediately. Signs of anaphylaxis can include:

    • Pale or bluish tint on the skin 
    • Throat constriction
    • Shortness of breath (and/or wheezing)
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Confusion and/or dizziness
    • Weak, rapid pulse

Those with diagnosed egg allergy are advised to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors (such as an EpiPen) at all times to protect against accidental contact or ingestion.

Egg Allergy Testing and Diagnosis

Self-assessing an egg allergy – or misdiagnosing as an intolerance or sensitivity – can quickly become dangerous, as a true egg allergy may induce anaphylaxis. The gold standard of diagnosing any food allergy consists of four steps carried out by an experienced clinician: 

Skin Prick Test

This is a safe, low-risk test in which the skin is lightly pricked with a suspected allergen. Any reactions are closely monitored by a clinician to determine whether an allergy is present. Mild itchiness, bumps, or hives are the most common reactions.

Blood Test

During an allergic reaction to egg, the immune system releases antibodies to fight back against invading proteins. A blood test measures IgE antibodies that have been released in response to egg protein. Results are typically available within a few days. Blood testing for allergens is safe for all ages, including infants.

Component Test

Component testing evaluates whether a patient can safely consume certain components or forms of an allergen. For example, you may be able to consume the egg yolk, but not egg whites. A component test will provide a deeper level of clarity to a clinician and can be a powerful tool in reducing the need for diet restriction. 

Oral Food Challenge

An oral food challenge is the final phase in food allergy testing. This determines, with certainty, whether a certain food can safely be consumed (or if an allergy has been outgrown completely). If, after reviewing the patient’s medical history and determining that the patient is likely to successfully and safely pass the food challenge, the clinician can recommend proceeding with the food challenge. Oral food challenges take place over a course of three to four hours, with the patient consuming gradually increasing amounts of a suspected allergen under the close supervision of a clinician.

Ingredients to Avoid for Egg Allergy

Egg proteins are certainly present in egg whites and egg yolks, but they are often found in other ingredients as well. Thoroughly reading food labels is crucial for anyone with an egg allergy, as even egg-white substitutes may contain egg proteins. If you have an egg allergy, an allergic reaction may be triggered by the following ingredients

    • Apovitellin
    • Globulin
    • Lysozyme
    • Ovalbumin
    • Ovoglobulin
    • Ovomucoid
    • Silici albuminate
    • Vitellin

Some people with an egg allergy may find that certain forms of egg can safely be eaten. For example, some patients may be able to consume baked, powdered egg, or foods that list egg as a minor ingredient. However, it is crucial to have this verified by a skilled clinician.

Foods That Commonly Contain Egg

Egg proteins are hidden in many foods that may not appear to contain egg. Some examples of common foods that include egg:

    • Mayonnaise-based salad dressing
    • French toast
    • Frosting
    • Mayonnaise
    • Meringue cookies
    • Quiche
    • Pancakes
    • Ice cream and gelato
    • Custard
    • Marshmallows
    • Meatballs and meatloaf
    • Foods that require an egg wash
    • Breading on poultry or processed meat

Egg Allergy Treatment Options

At Latitude Food Allergy Care, we provide oral immunotherapy (OIT) to help patients improve their quality of life. OIT is approximately 85 percent effective for single or multiple food allergies and is safe for all ages. In a recent study, OIT at low, recurring doses has been shown to be effective when treating persistent egg allergy.

The goal of oral immunotherapy is to continually expose the patient to increasing amounts of an allergen. As OIT progresses, the body is gradually desensitized and learns to adapt to the allergen. This allows for fewer dietary restrictions, and protects against severe or life-threatening reactions due to accidental exposure. 

To determine whether a patient may be a candidate for OIT, our expert clinical team will evaluate existing conditions, collect full medical history, and discuss lifestyle. If clinically relevant, we may recommend combining oral immunotherapy with Xolair, an anti-IgE monoclonal antibody that inhibits allergic reactions.

Recent research into egg allergy treatment shows promising advancements. Future therapies for egg allergy treatment may include: sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), in which an allergen is held under the tongue for small periods of time, and epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), in which the patient wears a patch to allow minute amounts of an allergen to penetrate the skin.

Are you or someone you love impacted by an egg allergy? Take the next step toward better health, safety, and quality of life with Latitude Food Allergy Care. Our expert team is available to discuss your testing, prevention, and treatment options. Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation conversation with one of our Patient Care Coordinators.

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