Egg Allergy in Children – Symptoms and causes

Do you always get sick with hives, rash or stomach pains after eating eggs? You might be allergic to eggs. After milk allergy, the second most common cause of food allergy is allergy to hen’s egg. Allergy develops when the body’s immune response becomes sensitised and overreacts to proteins in certain food products. In egg allergy the body becomes sensitised to proteins in egg white or egg yolk. The common allergens in hens eggs are ovalbumin and ovomucoid.

What are the symptoms of egg allergy in children?
Symptoms of egg allergy usually start in childhood. The symptoms of egg allergy usually start within minutes of consuming egg or egg products. The symptoms of egg allergy can be mild, such as appearance of hives on the skin, tongue or lips swelling, abdominal pain/cramps, nausea and vomiting. Some children can develop a runny nose and eyes, cough and difficulty in breathing. In some children, the symptoms of egg allergy can be severe and life threatening also known as anaphylaxis. This could include a severe difficulty in breathing, hoarseness of voice, appearance of stridor, cold clammy skin, feeble pulse and low blood pressure.

How do we diagnose egg allergy?
If you have symptoms suggestive of egg allergy a pediatric allergist can help you to find out whether you are allergic to eggs or not. This would require allergy testing, which can either be skin allergy test or skin prick test (SPT) or blood allergy test (also called as ImmunoCap).

Can egg allergy go away?
Most children outgrow their egg allergy as they grow older. This usually happens between 3 to 6 years of age. In some children egg allergy might persist into their adulthood.

What foods should be avoided in children or adults with egg allergy?
People with hen’s egg allergy should avoid eating eggs and any egg containing products. Children with egg allergy might also be allergic to other eggs such as duck’s eggs although they are not as commonly consumed in India. The use of eggs in cooking is multi-functional as they might be used as an emulsifier to reduce oil water separation or as binder or an aerator like in cakes.

Hence, eggs can be present as a hidden ingredient in certain types of processed foods. Hence, it is extremely important to be careful whenever eating out with friends or family. Reading product labels is important to know whether it contains any egg or egg product. As in Indian setup the food labelling is not as robust as in the western countries utmost care must be taken when eating out. In young children the daycares and nurseries should also be informed about any allergies the child might be having.

Can I eat baked foods if I'm allergic to eggs?
Almost 60-70% of children with egg allergy can tolerate baked egg products. This happens as heating disrupts the protein responsible for egg allergy, making these non-allergenic. In some children we consider doing a baked egg challenge before allowing them to consume baked egg products at home. Since some children may not tolerate baked egg products and can have a severe reaction it is important to discuss the issue with your allergist before giving your child baked egg products.

What is a baked egg challenge test?
A baked egg challenge test is used to find out whether a child shall be able to tolerate baked egg food products or not. The baked egg challenge test involves the child consuming a small amount of egg in a food like a muffin or cake which has been extensively heated in an oven. The child is given a gradually increasing amount of the food over the course of a few hours, while the symptoms are carefully monitored. The test is stopped if the child develops allergy symptoms at any point of time. If a child is able to tolerate the maximum dose of the food the child is said to have passed the baked egg challenge test. The child is allowed to consume baked eggs containing food at home. This test is usually done in a hospital setting as few children might develop allergy reactions.

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