Egg is one of the most common food allergens affecting young children. The first reaction usually occurs when the child is between six and 15 months of age, when they have been given egg for the first time. Egg allergy is much more common in children than it is in adults, with the majority of sufferers outgrowing their allergy by the time they reach 16 years of age.¹
Egg is one of the most common foods contributing to eczema (atopic dermatitis) in infants. Reactions can range from a flare in eczema, to hives or swelling around the mouth or more widespread, gastrointestinal reactions with tummy pain and
vomiting, to severe reactions (anaphylaxis).
Most children with egg allergy have mild symptoms, but some children have severe, life-threatening reactions to even the tiniest amount of egg. Some egg-allergic children can eat well-cooked egg, e.g. in a biscuit or cake, without any ill effects but not raw or lightly cooked egg. Others are allergic even to egg that has been well cooked.
If you are worried that you or your child has an egg allergy, seek your GP’s advice and see a specialist if necessary. Your GP or specialist will make a diagnosis based on history of previous reactions. The allergy can be confirmed by skin prick tests and/or blood tests, which measure the allergy antibody. People at risk of severe reactions are normally prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector, such as the EpiPen.
If you are allergic to eggs, you will need to avoid eggs from other poultry, such as duck, goose and quail. You also need to avoid both the egg white and the egg yolk.
Most people with egg allergy can eat chicken meat safely, but in rare cases people allergic to eggs are sensitive to chicken meat as well.
Other food allergies in children with an egg allergyBecause egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in young children, it’s possible that this is an isolated problem. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go on to develop other, more serious allergic conditions.
However, an egg allergy is a good marker for an allergic tendency and a warning that there is increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis and asthma. This is called the Allergic March.
There is also a possibility that children with a history of egg allergy may also have other food allergies.
Non-food itemsEgg is not often used in medicines, but it is important to remind your doctor and pharmacist every time you get a new prescription or over-the-counter medication.
The anaesthetic drug Diprivan (Propofol) contains soya bean oil and purified egg phosphatide. If you’re having an operation, ensure your anaesthetist is aware of your/your child’s egg allergy.
Non-food items, such hair products and cosmetics, may also contain egg and this could be labelled as “ovum”.
Avoid handling egg cartons used at preschool or schools for art, as well as newly hatched chickens and birds nests, which are a potential site of egg shells. If egg shells are used, wrap them very well in newspaper to put in the rubbish bin.
1. Savage JH, et al “The natural history of egg allergy”
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2007.09.040.
This fact sheet is based on information available at the time of going to press but may be subject to change.
Remember too that all of us are different and individual cases require individual medical attention. Please be guided by your GP or specialist.
Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Dr Jan Sinclair, Paediatric Immunologist, and Jennifer Heyward, Paediatric Dietitian, from the Starship Hospital for their assistance in writing this information.