Eggs are one of the most common allergy-causing foods for children.
Egg allergy symptoms usually occur a few minutes to a few hours after eating eggs or foods containing eggs. Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe and can include skin rashes, hives, nasal congestion, and vomiting or other digestive problems. Rarely, egg allergy can cause anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction.
Egg allergy can occur as early as infancy. Most children, but not all, outgrow their egg allergy before adolescence.
An immune system overreaction causes food allergies. For egg allergy, the immune system mistakenly identifies certain egg proteins as harmful. When you or your child comes in contact with egg proteins, immune system cells (antibodies) recognize them and signal the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals that cause allergic signs and symptoms.
Both egg yolks and egg whites contain proteins that can cause allergies, but allergy to egg whites is most common. It’s possible for breast-fed infants to have an allergic reaction to egg proteins in breast milk if the mother consumes eggs.
Egg allergy reactions vary from person to person and usually occur soon after exposure to egg. Egg allergy symptoms can include:
- Skin inflammation or hives — the most common egg allergy reaction
- Nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing (allergic rhinitis)
- Digestive symptoms, such as cramps, nausea and vomiting
- Asthma signs and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath
A severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency that requires an immediate epinephrine (adrenaline) shot and a trip to the emergency room. Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms include:
- Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat or a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rapid pulse
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure felt as dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
Discuss with your doctor any reaction — no matter how mild — you or your child has to eggs. The severity of egg allergy reactions can vary each time one occurs, so even if a past reaction was mild, the next one could be more serious.
If your doctor thinks you or your child may be at risk of a severe reaction, he or she may prescribe an emergency epinephrine shot to be used if anaphylaxis occurs. The shot comes in a device that makes it easy to deliver, called an autoinjector.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you or your child has signs or symptoms of a food allergy shortly after eating eggs or an egg-containing product. If possible, see the doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This may help in making a diagnosis.
If you or your child has signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek immediate emergency treatment and use an autoinjector if one has been prescribed.