Symptoms of egg allergy can include hives, swelling, vomiting, coughing, wheezing and anaphylaxis, although the majority of reactions involve the skin. Eczema may occur in breast-fed infants who have never directly ingested egg, as egg allergens can be detected in the breast milk of lactating women who have eaten egg. Egg whites, the albumin portion of the egg, contain many more allergenic proteins than the yolk.
Food allergies in early childhood may be a marker for allergic rhinitis or asthma. In a group of 1,218 newborns, 55% of the 29 children who developed egg allergy by the time they were four went on to develop either asthma or rhinitis. In another prospective study of 100 babies at risk of asthma and allergy, sensitivity to either egg or cow’s milk or both in the first five years of life was found to be a predictor of asthma later in life.
Several vaccines, including MMR, have been associated with adverse effects in children with an egg allergy. However, research studies have demonstrated that these reactions are most likely secondary to a vaccine component called gelatin, a protein contained in collagen and not egg.
However, influenza vaccines do contain detectable amounts of egg protein, so those with egg allergy are advised not to use the vaccine although there is a method of administering it to this high-risk group which includes incremental dosing. Ask your doctor for more information.
Egg allergy is diagnosed by taking the patient’s history backed by both skin and blood tests.
‘Growing out’ of egg allergy
Encouragingly, research studies have found a much lower prevalence to egg allergy in adults and adolescents compared to young children, suggesting that egg allergy is outgrown in most cases. Children who have skin and gastrointestinal reactions appear to have a better chance of outgrowing their allergy than those who have more systemic reactions such as swelling, breathing difficulties and anaphylaxis. Approximately two-thirds of infants with egg allergy will become
tolerant to egg by the time they are seven.
First published in 2007
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