Egg Allergy

In just one month, 6 billion eggs are produced in the United States and distributed to food service establishments, retail stores, food manufacturers and exporters. The ubiquitous egg also happens to be one of the most common food allergens, affecting approximately 0.2% of Americans. This equates to more than 600,000 people.

Studies show that about 70 percent of individuals outgrow egg allergy symptoms by age 16. However, egg allergies can persist in people with elevated levels of IgE antibodies to egg. 

Most allergic reactions to egg involve the skin; in fact, egg allergy is the most common food allergy in babies and young children with eczema. Egg allergy reactions can range from minor conditions such as hives to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which may cause death.

Individuals who are allergic to eggs should be aware that egg protein exposure can occur unexpectedly when eating many foods. Most people know eggs are contained in baked goods such as cakes and muffins, but they may not realize they are also in foods such as canned soups, salad dressings, ice cream, and meat-based dishes like meatballs and meatloaf. Some commercial egg substitutes contain egg protein and should be avoided by those with egg allergy. Egg-allergic individuals should practice vigilant label-reading and ask questions about ingredients and preparation methods before eating foods prepared by others.

An Egg by Any Other Name . . .
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 states that all packaged foods labeled on or after January 1, 2006, must list – in plain language  –whether a product contains one of the top eight food allergens: milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans.

But here are a few terms you may see that indicate the product contains egg:

  • Albumin             

  • Conalbumin

  • Egg substitutes             

  • Eggnog

  • Globulin             

  • Livetin

  • Lysozyme             

  • Mayonnaise

  • Meringue             

  • Ovalbumin

  • Ovoglubulin            

  • Ovolactohydrolyze proteins

  • Ovomacroglobulin

  • Ovomucin

  • Ovomucoid            

  • Ovovitellin

  • Ovotransferrin             

  • Simplesse®

  • Sitellin             

  • Surimi

  • Silico-albuminate             

  • Vitellin

Read the labels of nonfood products too. Hair care products, skin creams, craft materials and even medications may contain eggs.

Easy Egg Substitutes

For each egg required in a recipe, substitute one of these mixtures:

  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons water, 1 1⁄2 tablespoons cooking oil and 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in 1⁄4 cup warm water

  • 1 teaspoon apricot puree

  • One packet plain gelatin mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you have an egg white allergy and not be allergic to the yolk?

Individuals may be diagnosed with an allergy to either egg whites, egg yolk or both. If a diagnosis is made specifically for an allergy to either egg white or egg yolk, the patient should avoid eggs altogether because it is not possible to completely separate the white from the yolk.

Is it safe for children to eat baked products made with eggs if they tolerate these foods but react to eggs that are cooked, e.g., scrambled?

Studies have shown that most people with egg allergy can tolerate extensively heated eggs, but there are no diagnostic tests that can predict which egg-allergic individuals can safely tolerate baked eggs and which ones cannot. While there is a good chance that egg-allergic children can safely eat baked products containing egg, these children should not do so without being advised by an allergist.

Can someone who is allergic to egg be vaccinated for flu?

Most children with egg allergy, depending on the severity of their allergy, can tolerate vaccines for seasonal flu (influenza). Some vaccine manufacturers label the amount of egg that is contained in their vaccines, which can help physicians decide how to administer the vaccine. In some cases, the vaccine dose will be divided into smaller injections. Studies show that reactions to these vaccines are uncommon and mild if they occur at all.  These studies may lead to more liberal guidelines that encourage vaccination with less need for multiple injections. Your allergist can discuss options. In all circumstances flu vaccine administration in egg allergic patients should be done by experienced clinicians equipped to deal with potential adverse effects, including anaphylaxis.  With specialist evaluation and monitoring, the benefits for flu vaccination outweigh the risks in most patients with egg allergy.   

Reprinted with permission from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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