Food allergies are increasingly common and tend to affect children more than adults. While children often grow out of their egg allergy, when a reaction happens it can be very serious – so it’s important to know what to do. If you think you or your child might be showing signs of an egg allergy visit your GP, who might refer you on to an allergy clinic.
You can experience a food allergy when your immune system reacts badly, or overreacts, to a particular food. Some foods, like eggs, are more likely to trigger allergic reactions than others because they’re made up of particular proteins. Cooking changes these proteins, so if your egg allergy is only mild, you might still be able to eat foods containing cooked eggs, like cakes.
About 6-8% of children are thought to have a food allergy. They’re most common in babies and toddlers, less common in older children and only found in around 2% of adults.
It’s thought that between 0.5 and 2.5% of children have an egg allergy, but the good news is it’s rarely a life-long problem. Unlike people with peanut allergies, children who are allergic to eggs usually grow out of it.
Babies who are allergic to eggs often also have eczema. Within seconds of first eating egg, they often break out in a red rash around their mouth. This can be followed by swelling around and inside the mouth, as well as on the face. Some babies also develop sickness or diarrhoea.
Older children with an egg allergy may wheeze, sneeze or have watery eyes. Sometimes their reaction might not be instant, but their eczema might get worse, their tummy may swell and be painful, and they might experience constipation, diarrhoea, or not gain weight.
Adults with an egg allergy might experience eczema, swollen skin or asthma.
Severe reactions to egg, like anaphylaxis (where the person affected collapses or is struggling to breathe), are much rarer than with nut or milk allergies. If they do happen, they always need to be treated as a medical emergency, so call 999 for an ambulance.
If the person has had a reaction before, they might also have an auto-injector, like an EpiPen®. These contain adrenalin to fight the reaction and are used to give an injection in the outer thigh. Follow the instructions on the side, but make sure you call 999 too.
If you think you or someone in your family might have an egg allergy talk to your GP. A proper diagnosis can help you find out how severe the reaction is and whether you need to avoid all food containing eggs, or just uncooked ones.
You might find eggs in foods you don’t expect, from cakes and breads to pasta, mayonnaise and glazes. Check the labels carefully – ingredients likely to cause allergic reactions are usually highlighted. If egg is eaten by mistake, keep a note of what it was in and the reaction you saw, so your GP can tell whether the allergy is getting better or worse.