Does your little one get a tummy ache or feel sick after eating eggs?
It might be time to see an allergist to rule out an egg allergy or an egg intolerance.
What’s the difference, you wonder?
Egg intolerance usually only involves uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, while an egg allergy is an immune response to the protein in eggs. And the symptoms of an allergy range from a mild egg allergy rash to anaphylaxis!
Egg allergies are not uncommon.
In fact, an allergy to eggs is one of the most common food allergies in children. The “Big 8” allergens are peanut, tree nut, soy, milk, wheat, fish and shellfish (and sesame seed is now the ninth most common food allergen).
Learn about egg allergy symptoms, treatment and what recent research says about how to prevent an egg allergy.
Approximately 2% of all children have an egg allergy, particularly kids younger than 5 years old.
The good news is that most children grow out of an egg allergy by the time they are 16 years old. Some studies show children grow out of an egg allergy as early as age six.
What causes a food allergy?
There are several factors that play a role in the prevalence of food allergies:
- Age and gender
- Genetic predisposition to developing allergies
- Geographic location
- Whether your child has other allergies
- Dietary habits
Of the nine common food allergens, children are most likely to grow out of an egg allergy.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to egg allergies. Eggs contain a few proteins. Kids might react differently to egg whites and egg yolks, or they may react to raw eggs versus heated eggs.
For example, a raw egg allergy tends to be more common in babies younger than 1 years old. Some children can tolerate baked eggs but they might have a reaction to raw eggs.
Gastrointestinal symptoms like stomach cramps and diarrhea are only some of the symptoms your child might experience.
An allergy to the protein in eggs can cause an egg allergy rash and reactions in the eyes, upper respiratory tract and, in severe cases, it can lead to a systemic, or whole body, response called anaphylaxis.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the symptoms of an egg allergy are:
- Stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repetitive cough
- Tightness in the throat or a hoarse voice
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue coloring of the skin
- Swelling (usually affects the tongue and/or lips)
If you notice these symptoms in your child, consider getting an egg allergy test.
I know – taking your child to get pricked by an allergist or poked with a needle for blood tests is no simple task, especially with very young children.
As a childhood nutrition expert, I recommend confirming an allergy before eliminating foods that contain valuable nutrients your child needs for growth and development.
Common egg allergy tests that help rule out allergies are-
- The oral challenge, which is done under your doctor’s supervision.
- The skin Prick Test – an allergist pricks the arm with tiny needles containing common allergens. If your child is allergic to any of the allergens tested, there will be a small reaction where the skin was pricked.
- A blood test may also confirm an allergy to eggs
A reaction during the oral challenge and the skin prick test confirms your child is allergic to eggs.
Let’s dive into treatment (and then a word about prevention).
The treatment for any allergy is to make sure your child avoids the food he’s allergic to.
Eggs are in so many goodies. You have to play detective with this ingredient. It’s easy to overlook the many recipes and packaged foods that contain egg protein.
Here are some common foods to avoid with an egg allergy.
- Pancakes, French toast, crepes, and waffles
- Cakes, cookies and muffins
- Battered and breaded foods (usually dipped in eggs)
- Meat dishes like meatballs and meatloaf
- Cream fillings
- Dressings (Caesar dressing)
Be sure to read ingredient labels on packaged products, as they will note the presence of egg.
Another way to treat egg allergy is through immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves repeated exposure to allergen extracts to build up tolerance. Over time, it helps relieve the symptoms of an allergy.
The egg allergy ladder is a promising approach to oral immunotherapy.
Food ladders are a way to reintroduce certain allergens like eggs to children with allergies. The food ladder is a tool that is used at home by parents and is part of your child’s regular diet. It works by reintroducing the allergy in gradual steps, starting with the least allergenic forms.
Children with milk and egg allergies usually tolerate heated eggs and milk better. So baked eggs would be a good option for the first step in building a tolerance to egg protein on the egg allergy ladder.
According to a recent study, consuming baked eggs between 12-24 months helps kids outgrow the allergy by 24 months old (but infants who cannot tolerate baked eggs might take longer to outgrow the allergy).
Anaphylaxis is dangerous and frightening.
As parents of young children in the day and age of increasing food allergies, naturally you want to avoid a life-threatening reaction to one of the 9 common allergens.
And previously, parents were told to hold off from offering allergens like peanuts to very young kids.
Recent studies now show that the early introduction to food allergens actually decreases the risk of a child developing an allergy.
A study presented at the 2021 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting shows that early introduction of eggs may decrease the risk of an egg allergy.
According to ACAAI, children that were not offered eggs before 1 years old were more likely to develop an allergy by 6 years old.
While you might have concerns about the possibility of your child having a severe reaction, it’s recommended to introduce eggs early.
Talk to your pediatrician about the best way to introduce food allergens, especially if your child has eczema or asthma and has a higher risk of having a food allergy.
Send Me The Do’s & Dont’s of Picky Eating!
While egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies among young kids, the good news is children will most likely outgrow it.
Introduce eggs early and contact your pediatrician if you observe symptoms of an egg intolerance or any egg allergy symptoms.
Children living with food allergies face many challenges and nutrient deficiencies are not uncommon.
Your pediatrician and a pediatric dietitian can guide you on how to eliminate allergens without sacrificing valuable nutrients and help determine the best way to reintroduce eggs to build your child’s tolerance to them.