Egg allergy is caused due to our immune system reacting against the proteins in the egg – usually found in the white part. It is particularly seen in younger children starting from 6 months of age. Egg allergies can be either permanent or transient – in transient cases, children outgrow their egg allergy.
Some people have allergic reactions to egg upon skin contact but can ingest it because gastric digestion reduces the allergen of the egg proteins. Sometimes egg proteins can be resistant to the heat and digestive enzymes in the stomach causing an immune response.
For children with allergies, the reaction is usually within minutes to a couple of hours of ingestion of egg, with symptoms such as hives or swelling. Skin symptoms are most common, but other immediate reactions involving the gastrointestinal or respiratory tracts are also seen.
Severity of reaction
Egg allergy has been implicated as a trigger for atopic dermatitis. Children who have egg allergies with atopic dermatitis response are more likely to develop asthma.
The severity of the allergic reaction varies from person to person, from episode to episode. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, and infants and children who are asthmatics are particularly at risk. Fatal incidents are few, but have occurred.
Allergic reactions are milder when ingesting cooked denatured egg, but stronger in case of eating raw or undercooked egg. Gastrointestinal inflammatory reactions are also present in some children showing up as allergic eosinophilic esophagitis.
Egg allergy can be verified by a variety of diagnostic methods. However, there is no permanent cure, so managing this involves:
- Avoiding eggs – this can prove difficult as egg whites, shells etc. are in so many products including medicines and vaccines. Being vigilant becomes important.
- For patients with a history of severe allergic reactions, having an epinephrine autoinjector at hand always.
- Some studies have suggested kids fed egg at 4-6 months of age were less likely to develop an egg allergy.
When it comes to the adult population, occupational asthma has been seen in populations which work in egg factories or bakeries where egg is used commonly in aerosol form.