An allergy to eggs
Egg allergies are now one of the most frequently reported types of allergy. They tend to be more common in children than adolescents and adults. Many children will outgrow their allergy to eggs as they get older. However, since eggs are used in many of the foods we eat, an egg allergy can pose many challenges. It is recommended not to give raw or loosely cooked eggs to babies or children as there is a risk of serious food poisoning (salmonella). Well cooked eggs are considered safe for babies over 6 months of age where there is no known allergy.
An allergic reaction will generally happen immediately and symptoms can include:
- Hives or Urticaria (itchy inflamed skin)
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Digestive symptoms such as vomiting (being sick), stomach cramps, diarrhoea
- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips , tongue
Most allergic reactions are mild, however a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. This is a medical emergency and help should be sought immediately. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Difficulty in breathing due to swelling of the face, lips, tongue
- Collapsing and unconsciousness
If you are at all concerned about a food allergy seek advice from your doctor.
Egg allergies are also the most common trigger of eczema (atopic dermatitis), especially in children.
The main causes of egg allergy are three proteins in the white of eggs, ovomucoid, ovalbumin and conalbumin. Cooking can destroy some of these allergens, but not all, which means that some people might react to raw eggs but not cooked eggs. Although the majority of people with an egg allergy will find it is to the egg white, there will be some people who will also suffer with an allergy to the yolk.
Once you know you have an egg allergy it is easy to avoid eggs that are served on their own. However, you will find that they are often hidden in various prepared and manufactured foods and therefore it is essential that you check food labels prior to consuming foods. Food products such as mayonnaise, cakes, meringues, egg pasta, egg noodles and chocolate bars will almost always include eggs as part of their ingredients. You should also be aware of any products that are ‘glazed’ since this is often achieved by egg white being brushed on the product prior to cooking. These products can include items such as pastry products (sausage rolls, savoury or sweet pies, Cornish pasty).
Many other food items will contain egg or derivatives of egg therefore it is vital that you check the ingredients label. Words that you will need to look out for include:
- egg/fresh egg (including those from all birds)
- egg powder, dried egg, frozen egg, pasteurised egg
- egg white, egg yolk
- egg lecithin (E322)
- egg proteins (albumin, ovalbumin, globulin, ovoglobulin, livetin, ovomucin, vitellin, ovovitellin)
Products purchased from places such as delicatessens and bakeries may not have labels and should therefore be avoided. Many supermarkets will produce a list of own brand products that are free from egg. These are available free of charge.
It is also important that you remember the possibility of cross-contamination when using cutlery to cut products that may include egg products.
In addition to allergies to foods that may contain eggs, people who have an egg allergy should be careful of certain medicines (i.e. yellow fever vaccine) since this may contain traces of egg. In the case of medications egg may be listed using the Latin word for egg OVO or OVUM in the ingredients list. Many people also ask if the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines and the Flu vaccine should be given to those with an egg allergy. They are currently considered to be safe however if you have any concerns about this, or any other aspects of living with an allergy to eggs, then you should discuss it with your GP.
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 23 July 2016
Next review: 23 July 2018