Childhood Egg Allergy Often Outgrown

Egg allergies are the second most common allergy in children.  Approximately 1.3% of children in the United States have an egg allergy.  The good news is about 80% of these children will outgrow this allergy as their digestive system matures. 

With an egg allergy your child will need to avoid eggs in all forms, meaning whether it is egg white, just the yolk, or cooked.  This allergy happens when your child’s body misidentifies the egg as something harmful in the body.

Though rarely do egg allergies cause anaphylaxis, a life threatening emergency.

Causes

Usually the egg white is the cause of the allergy.  But because it is impossible to separate the egg white completely from the yolk without there being any egg white proteins on the yolk you will need to avoid the entire egg.  There are two proteins in egg whites ovalbumin, and ovomucoid.  Ovalbumin is broken down when cooked.  If your child’s egg allergy is caused by the ovalbumin protein then consuming fully cooked eggs, like in baked goods, can be done.

Symptoms

Symptoms can range from mild to severe.  Someone with an egg allergy can even react differently each time they are exposed.  Symptoms occur usually within a few minutes to a few hours after eggs have been consumed.  Symptoms can affect the skin causing hives, or itchiness.

Respiratory symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing.  Nasal symptoms are runny nose, sneezing, or nasal congestion.  Stomach symptoms are vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, abdominal cramping, or diarrhea.  Egg allergies can also cause lightheadedness and fainting.  In severe cases you can have a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.  This can cause restricted airways, drop in blood pressure causing fainting, or rapid pulse.  Anaphylaxis is a life threatening emergency that needs immediate treatment.  A severe allergic reaction can also cause an asthma attack.

Prevention

Giving your child eggs as soon as they can handle solid foods can help them not become allergic to eggs.  The best way to first introduce to your child is scrambled.  You will want to give them fully cooked eggs first with egg whites since the egg white proteins are what cause the majority of egg allergies.  This helps the body with immune training, and teaching the body that they are not a harmful substance.

Risk Factors

Your child may be more at risk of having an egg allergy if there is a family history of egg allergies.  If your child suffers from atopic dermatitis they will also be at a higher risk for an egg allergy.  Your child’s age has a lot to do with the allergy as well, and as your child gets older has the chance of growing out of the allergy altogether due to the maturing of their digestive system.  If your child has an egg allergy they have a higher risk of having other food allergies, such as milk, soy, peanut, pet dander, dust mites, and grass pollen.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing your child’s food allergy will start with a trip to an allergist.  The allergist may want to do a skin prick test.  When a tiny prick of the allergen is put on your child’s skin, they will wait to see if a reaction occurs to note if your child is allergic to each most common allergen.

Another test you can do is a blood test.  A food elimination diet with a list of symptoms while on the elimination diet may also be done.  A food challenge can also be done in a supervised controlled environment.  This will be when the child is given food in increasing amounts while under medical supervision.  The medical staff supervising will then wait to see if a reaction occurs.

Treatment 

If the allergist states your child is allergic to eggs the first thing you will want to do is avoid and eliminate all eggs out of their diet.  This means you will have to jump into reading food labels for everything.  Some items may state they are egg free, but may still have some egg proteins in them.

So educating yourself on how to read a food label will be key.  Some foods that have hidden egg in them are marshmallows, mayonnaise, meringue, baked goods, breaded foods, marzipan, frostings, processed meat, meatloaf, meatballs, puddings, custards, salad dressing, many pastas, and pretzels.

Learning to read a food label and looking out of Albumin, Globulin, Lecithin, Livetin, Lysozyme, Vitellin, or ingredients starting with “ova” or “ovo”.  Flu vaccines and the yellow fever vaccines contain egg proteins in them.  You will want to get your child retested in a year from their original testing, since this allergy is so easy for them to grow out of.  In severe cases your doctor may prescribe you an epinephrine injection pen in cause of anaphylaxis.  Learning to use this device correctly can be life saving.

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