An egg allergy is a reaction by your child's immune system to eggs. Our immune systems normally respond to bacteria or viruses that attack the body. A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly believes that a harmless substance (a food) is harmful. In order to protect the body, the immune system creates substances called antibodies to that food. The next time you eat that food, your immune system releases huge amounts of chemicals, such as histamines, to protect the body.
Eggs are among the 8 foods that are responsible for most food allergies in children. The other foods include milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews), wheat, fish, and shellfish. The good news is that most kids outgrow an egg allergy by age 5.
If you think your child is allergic to eggs or any other food, it is important to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider or allergist. Symptoms may include:
Although rare, it is possible to have an allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. This is a serious reaction that is sudden, severe, and can involve the whole body. It can cause swelling of the mouth and throat, dangerously lower blood pressure, and trouble breathing. This type of reaction is a medical emergency. It is treated with epinephrine (a medicine that is given by injection). Usually parents or caregivers of children who have severe allergic reactions carry their own shot kits, just in case of emergency.
An allergic reaction to a food usually starts within minutes but may be delayed 2 to 4 hours. It usually lasts less than 1 day. The more severe the allergy, the smaller the amount of food it takes to cause a reaction.
New studies show that slowly adding small amounts of eggs to the diet may help children get over the allergy sooner. However, for now, the only treatment for egg allergy is to completely avoid eggs and foods that contain egg products.
If you are breast-feeding, eliminate the food your child is allergic to from your diet. Food allergens can be absorbed from your diet and enter into your breast milk. Eggs are found in hundreds of foods, many of which your child probably eats everyday. You will need to change the way you order, shop for, and prepare foods. Be sure to check the ingredients on food package labels and ask about the ingredients in food prepared in restaurants when you eat out.
The first step is to learn to read labels and become familiar with ingredients that contain egg products. Always ask about ingredients if you are not sure. Study the lists below to learn more about foods and ingredients to watch out for.
Foods that almost always contain egg
Foods that often contain egg (check the label or ask):
Ingredients that indicate the presence of egg include (especially look for names beginning with Ovo or Ova)
Foods that may contain eggs (only use these if you can call manufacturer to clarify the makeup of all ingredients)
Children who are very sensitive to egg proteins, may react when they touch eggs or egg products. Non-food products that may contain eggs include:
Reading labels to avoid allergens has become a lot easier. Foods that contain milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, or soy products must list the food in plain language on the ingredient list. For example, albumin (egg). These possible allergens must be listed even if they are part of a flavoring, coloring, or spice blend. There are still some things to watch out for when reading food labels:
It is very important for you to know less common names and scientific names for food ingredients.
Your child can still have a healthy diet. The main nutrients found in eggs are protein and B vitamins. Your child can get plenty of protein from other sources such as dairy products, meat, poultry, pork, fish, beans, soy foods, legumes, nuts, and seeds. However, when grain products such as cereal are eliminated, there may be a risk of not getting enough B vitamins. Try to offer egg-free whole grain products. You can make these from scratch or buy an egg-free type. Other sources of B vitamins include dark leafy vegetables, bananas, asparagus, oranges, peanuts, and brewers yeast. It is a good idea to have your child's diet checked by a pediatric dietitian.
You can modify most recipes that call for 3 eggs or less.
Each egg in the recipe can be replaced by one of the following substitutions:
It is also helpful to get cookbooks for people with food allergies, such as the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Cookbook - Cooking Allergy-Free Everyday. Visit the Web site at http://foodallergy.org or call 800-929-4040 to order this cookbook and others. There are also Web sites that sell specialty foods modified for allergies (such as http://www.allergygrocery.com.)