An egg allergy is a reaction by your child's immune system to eggs. Our immune systems normally respond to invaders that attack the body such as bacteria or viruses. With a food allergy, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks harmless things, such as the substances found in eggs. Eggs are among the 8 foods that are responsible for most food allergies seen in children. The other foods include milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews), wheat, fish, and shellfish. The good news is that most kids outgrow an egg allergy by age 5.
What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to egg?
If you suspect your child is having an allergic reaction to eggs or any other food, it is important to get a diagnosis from your health care provider or allergist. You should look for the following symptoms, which can range from mild to severe:
Skin reactions such as hives, eczema, or swelling
Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or itching around the mouth
Running nose, wheezing or difficulty breathing
Although very rare, it is possible to have an anaphylactic reaction. This is a serious reaction that is sudden, severe, and can involve the whole body. The reaction can cause swelling of the mouth and throat, dangerously lower blood pressure, and closure of the airways leading to difficulty breathing. This type of reaction calls for immediate medical attention. It is treated with epinephrine (a medicine that is given by injection). Usually parents or caregivers of children that have severe reactions to allergies carry their own shot kits in case of emergency.
How will this affect my child's diet?
Once your child is diagnosed with an egg allergy, you will need to change the way you shop and prepare foods. The only treatment for someone with an egg allergy is to completely eliminate eggs and foods that contain egg from the diet. Eggs are found in hundreds of processed foods, many of which your child probably eats everyday so you will need to be careful about the foods you buy and prepare.
You will probably need to make more meals from scratch using whole natural foods. There are a wide variety of foods available at health food markets and the natural foods section of large grocery stores. These stores often offer egg-free products, such as bread, bread and pancake mixes, and noodles. There are also food companies that can be accessed online that offer egg-free convenience food products. To be on the safe side, choose products that provide an 800 number for consumers to inquire about ingredients.
Keeping your child's diet egg-free is definitely a challenge. The first step to educating yourself in choosing safe, egg-free foods, is learning to read labels and becoming familiar with ingredients that contain egg. Study the lists below to learn more about foods and ingredients to watch out for.
Foods that almost always contain egg
Breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, pastas, and cereals.
Shiny breads, such as bagels and pretzels (egg yokes or whites are used to brush the tops to make them shine).
Shiny baked goods should always be avoided.
Orange Julius beverage.
Foods that often contain egg (check the label or ask):
Salad dressing, candies, chocolates with cream filling, and beverages such as root beer and specialty coffees.
Fried restaurant items (the same fryer might be used to cook egg-battered foods ando ther foods, such as French fries.)
Food products that include the word binder, coagulant, or emulsifier on the label.
Egg is often used as a binding agent.
Ingredients that indicate the presence of egg include (especially look for names beginning with Ovo or Ova)
Albumin (egg protein)
Egg (dried, powdered, white, yolk, solids)
Egg substitutes (typically made with egg white)
Flavoring (natural or artificial)
Lecithin E322 (although lecithin is a natural component of egg, when used in processed foods, it is typically derived from soy. Many of these products may be acceptable for your child, so call the manufacturer to make sure of the source.)
Ovalbumin (sometimes indicated as Ov)
Simplesse (fat replacer)
Foods that may contain eggs (only use these if you can call manufacturer to clarify the makeup of all ingredients)
How can I provide my child with an adequate diet that tastes good?
Your child can still have a nutritionally complete diet as well as continue to enjoy some "kid favorites". The primary nutrients found in eggs are protein and B vitamins. Your child can get plenty of protein from other sources such as dairy products, meat, poultry, pork, fish, beans, soy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds. However, most Americans get most of their B vitamins from fortified or enriched grain products (such as cereal). When these grain products are eliminated, there may be a risk of not getting enough B vitamins. Try to offer egg-free whole grain products. You can make these from scratch or buy an egg-free type. Other sources of B vitamins include dark leafy vegetables, bananas, asparagus, oranges, peanuts, and brewers yeast. It is a good idea to have your child's diet checked by a pediatric dietitian.
How do I modify recipes?
You can modify most recipes that call for 3 eggs or less.
Each egg in the recipe can be replaced by one of the following substitutions:
1 tsp of yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water.
1 and 1/2 tablespoon water, 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.
1 packet gelatin mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water (mix just before adding to recipe).
It is also helpful to purchase a few food allergy cookbooks. One respected cookbook is The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Cookbook. This cookbook and others can be purchased through the Network at http://foodallergy.org or calling 800-929-4040.
Educate your child to the dangers of sharing foods (even young children can grasp this concept, especially once they have experienced feeling sick after eating a particular food).
Prepare your child's lunch at home.
Talk with teachers and the school administrator regarding your child's needs. Request that teachers keep an eye out and explain the situation to other children if appropriate.
Have the teacher call you if there is a special event or party planned so that you can bring a few modified treats that your child can enjoy and share with other kids.
Make a card that lists foods and ingredients that should be avoided and give one to the teacher. The card can also be helpful to older children in making decisions when out with friends.
Flu and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines may contain small amounts of egg protein. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control say that the MMR is safe for children allergic to eggs. Ask your health care provider of allergist if it is safe for your child to have flu shot or MMR vaccine, especially if he or she is severely allergic to eggs.