Eggs are everywhere. Not only are they served for breakfast, but they're also in all sorts of foods — from muffins to meatloaf. But what if you were allergic to eggs?
Some babies and kids have an allergic reaction to eggs. If that happens, they can't eat eggs for a while. But the good news is that most kids (but not all) outgrow this allergy and can eat eggs with no problem after they do.
What Is an Egg Allergy?
When someone has an egg allergy, the body's immune system, which normally fights infections, overreacts to proteins in egg. If the person drinks or eats a product that contains egg, the body thinks these proteins are harmful invaders. The immune system responds by working very hard to fight off the invader. This causes an allergic reaction.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of an Egg Allergy?
When someone with an egg allergy has something with egg in it, it can cause symptoms like:
- trouble breathing
- throat tightness
- belly pain
- itchy, watery, or swollen eyes
- red spots
- feeling lightheaded or passing out
Some reactions to egg are mild and involve only one part of the body, like hives on the skin. But even when someone has had only a mild reaction in the past, the next reaction can be severe.
In rare cases, a person could have a very serious allergic reaction, which can cause anaphylaxis (say: an-uh-fih-LAK-sis). Medical care is needed right away because the person may have breathing problems and a drop in blood pressure.
Anaphylaxis is treated with a medicine called epinephrine (say: ep-uh-NEF-rin), which is given by injection (a shot). Kids who have a severe egg allergy will usually carry — or have a grown-up carry — an epinephrine injection, just in case.
What Do Doctors Do?
Doctors diagnose an egg allergy with skin tests or blood tests. A skin test (also called a scratch test) is the most common allergy test. Skin testing lets a doctor see in about 15 minutes if someone is sensitive to egg.
With this test, the doctor or nurse:
- puts a tiny bit of egg extract on the kid's skin
- pricks the outer layer of skin or makes a small scratch on the skin
If the area swells up and get red (like a mosquito bite), the kid is sensitive to eggs.
How Is an Egg Allergy Treated?
The best way to treat an egg allergy is to avoid eating eggs or any food containing eggs. Parents will have to help babies and young kids avoid eggs. Some older kids won't outgrow their egg allergy. These kids can learn to watch out for eggs and foods made with eggs.
Prevention is the name of the game with food allergies, so it's important for kids to learn:
- how to treat a reaction if they have one
- how to read food labels to avoid eggs and egg-containing foods
Treating a Reaction
Kids who have an egg allergy should have a plan in case they accidentally eat eggs. Work with your parents, doctor, and school nurse to have a plan in place. It may involve having medicine on hand, such as an antihistamine, or in severe cases, an epinephrine auto-injector. This comes in a small easy-to-carry container. It's simple to use. Your doctor will show your parents (and you, if you're old enough) how to use it.
The doctor and your parents also might want you to wear a medical alert bracelet.
What Else Should I Know?
Always wash your hands before eating. If soap and water aren't available, you can use hand-cleaning wipes. But don't use hand sanitizer gels or sprays. Hand sanitizers only get rid of germs — they don't get rid of egg proteins.