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Egg Allergy

Introduction

Eggs are found in a lot of food items. Parents should be aware that egg allergy is one of the food allergies that can affect infants and young children.

What is egg allergy?

Egg allergy is an adverse reaction of the body towards exposure to egg or products containing egg. The body reacts towards egg like it is a dangerous substance.

How does it occur?

The eggyolk contains certain proteins but these proteins are seldom allergens. The proteins are:

  • Aapovitellenins I.
  • Apovitellenins VI.
  • Phosvitin.

The egg white contains 4 proteins that are potential allergens:

  • Ovomucoid.
  • Ovalbumin.
  • Ovotransfferin.
  • Iysozyme.

It is the protein ovalbumin, which is the major allergen and it makes up fifty percent of an egg white. Egg allergy occurs when the body treats the egg proteins like a harmful substance. The body then produces antibodies to fight the egg proteins These antibodies stimulate our immune response to release certain chemicals which cause the symptoms of egg allergy.

How common is this condition?

  • The incidence of egg allergy in Malaysia not known.
  • Commonly starts during infancy when egg is first introduced.
  • Allergy usually disappear when child is 5 to 7 years old.

How are the effects of this allergy?

The allergic reaction affects the skin, gut and lungs. Sometimes it may even affect the heart function and blood pressure.

Types of reactions:

  • Acute – symptoms appear within minutes.
  • Delayed – symptoms appear after 2-4 hours.

Symptoms usually last less than 24 hours.

Symptoms include:

  • Urticaria (hives), eczema.
  • Flushing of face.
  • Teary eyes, swollen eyelids.
  • Itchy mouth, swollen lips.
  • Tightness in the throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Wheezing, coughing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Diarrhoea.

How is a diagnosis of egg allergy made?

Diagnosis should be made by your doctors after looking into your child’s history and symptoms.

  • Parents may have noticed that their babies get sick or develop rashes soon after eating eggs. Consult your doctor about this.
  • Special tests that can be done by a specialist doctor
    • Allergy skin test
    • RAST (Radioallergosorbent test)
    • These tests can be used to test for egg allergy but they are by no means definitive. Tests should be done and interpreted carefully by a specialist doctor.

What is anaphylaxis?

Some children can develop a severe allergic reaction termed Anaphylaxis. This is a sudden and serious reaction involving the skin, lungs, gut, heart and blood vessels.

These symptoms progress rapidly and include the following:

  • Sense of fear, impending doom.
  • Flushed face.
  • Swollen eyes, mouth, tongue, lips.
  • Tightness in throat.
  • Difficulty in breathing, wheezing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach pains.
  • Giddiness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Rapid heart beat.

Severe reactions can lead to coma and eventual death if untreated.

How is this condition treated?

All allergic reactions:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Medications to treat allergy include:

  • Antihistamines.
  • Adrenaline.
  • Steroids.

Consult your doctor for advice on these medications.

How is anaphylaxis treated?

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

  • You should bring your child to the nearest hospital immediately.
  • EpiPen should be used immediately if you carry one ( EpiPen is a prefilled Epinephrine or Adrenaline auto injector which is available in Malaysia. Consult your doctor on the necessity of obtaining a prefilled adrenaline syringe).

What should I do if my child has egg allergy?

If your child has egg allergy:

  • Avoid all eggs or egg products.(even small amounts can cause serious reactions in those with severe egg allergy).
  • Read all food labels carefully and avoid those with eggs.
  • Have an emergency plan of what to do should an allergic reaction happens.
  • Carry an EpiPen (either you or your child to administer in emergencies).
  • Give your child a Medi Alert bracelet to wear.
  • Inform the caretaker or school teachers about your child’s condition.
  • Consult your doctor on special precautions needed for your child’s MMR (Mumps, Measles, Rubella) vaccination.

What are the other important things to be aware of?

Be aware that many food items may contain egg but is not stated clearly in their labels.

Examples of food ingredients that should be avoided:

  • Albumin.
  • Globulin.
  • Ovalbumin.
  • Vitellin.
  • Lysozyme.

A nutritionist needs to be consulted if you are uncertain of the content of a specific food. When you exclude food items containing egg from your child’s diet, you need to ensure that your child receives enough nutrients from other food sources.

Will my child outgrow this condition?

Most children outgrow their egg allergy. However reintroduction of eggs into your child’s diet should be done only under medical supervision.

Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Content Writer : Dato’ Dr. Lim Nyok Ling
: Dr. Lim Sern Chin
Reviewer : Dr. Tang Swee Ping