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Eggs can be a great source of protein as a part of a healthy diet. But you can be allergic to some of the proteins that are found in either the egg yolk or the egg white or even both. An egg allergy, like any allergy, is when your immune system identifies these proteins as harmful. When you ingest these proteins, your immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts and releases histamines, which then cause your allergic symptoms. People with an egg allergy must avoid both the egg white and the egg yolk because it’s not possible to completely separate the egg white from the yolk.
Eggs are one of the most common causes of allergic reactions in children.1 In fact, egg is the second most common food allergy—after milk—in infants and young children.1-5 Studies estimate that as many as 2.5% of young children are allergic to eggs.6 Fortunately, studies also show that about 70% of children with an egg allergy will outgrow it.7 But this research also suggests that children are outgrowing their egg allergy more slowly than before, with many children still allergic beyond age 5. Since the majority of children do outgrow their egg allergy, periodic re-evaluation, including testing, is recommended.7
Egg allergy reactions vary from person to person and can occur within a few minutes to a few hours after eating.
Eggs are often responsible for the development of hives and eczema (atopic dermatitis) in infants. Although rare, egg allergy can also cause anaphylaxis—a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate care.8
Signs and symptoms of an egg allergy can include:
Eggs are a hidden ingredient in many foods; even some commercial egg substitutes contain egg protein or egg whites. That’s why it is so important to read the label or ask about ingredients before buying or eating a food. Ingredients in packaged foods can change at any time—and without warning—so check the ingredients carefully every time.
Eggs can be found in foods including:
Eggs can also be found in some medications and vaccines. Avoiding egg can be a challenge and can pose significant quality of life issues.9
When eggs are heated thoroughly the proteins change shape, and for some people this could mean that their immune system will no longer overreact to the protein. In fact, studies have shown that 70% of children with an egg allergy can actually tolerate baked foods containing egg, like a muffin or a cookie.10,11 This means some people with an egg allergy can go to a birthday party and eat the cake, as opposed to skipping the cake (or the party). A simple blood test can help your healthcare professional determine if you’re a good candidate for an oral food challenge to see if you’re likely to tolerate baked egg.
Many people are so used to living with—or being embarrassed by—their uncomfortable symptoms that they never consider asking for help. If you think you or a loved one may have an egg allergy, don’t try to manage the problem on your own. A simple blood test can help identify underlying allergen triggers, if you have an allergy.