Egg allergy affects between 0.5 and 2.5 per cent of children under five in the UK. It’s associated with eczema and sufferers may well have other food allergies, too. An egg allergy rarely starts in adulthood but adults with egg allergy are often allergic to birds or feathers, which contain a similar protein. Occasionally, someone with an egg allergy may not be able to eat chicken. A skin prick test, or blood test, can diagnose an egg allergy.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of egg allergy vary from mild to life-threateningly severe. They often start almost immediately after eating egg, with mild reactions such as tingling in the mouth and lips, facial redness and swelling, nausea, vomiting, tummy pain and rashes. A severe reaction (also called anaphylaxis) may include wheezing, breathing and throat problems, dizziness, loss of consciousness and palpitations. Some very sensitive people may even suffer when they inhale cooked egg, and skin contact may cause a rash.
Look for free-from labels
Those with an egg allergy must always check food labels. Avoid anything with fresh egg, egg powder, dried, frozen or pasteurised egg, egg yolk, white or protein (also listed as albumin, ovalblumin, globulin, ovoglobulin, livetin, ovomucin, vitellin, ovovitellin) and egg lecithin E322. Avoid unlabelled food, or food in a mixed display. The best thing to do is look for Free From labels – and ask, in both shops and restaurants.
Well-cooked egg is found in cakes, biscuits, egg pasta and noodles, sausages and prepared meats, anything with an egg glaze, pastry and Quorn. Loosely- or less well-cooked egg is found in quiche, scrambled, boiled, poached and fried egg, omelette, egg custard, hollandaise sauce, pancakes and Yorkshire pudding. If you are allergic to raw egg you won’t be able to eat fresh mousse, mayonnaise, ice-cream or sorbet, royal icing, horseradish or tartar sauce, cheeses containing egg lysozyme, carbonara and raw egg in dishes waiting to be cooked (so, no licking spoons!).Instead, you should seek out egg-free recipes; some use baking powder for structure and fruit purée for binding – see our recipes here for inspiration, you can even cook a delicious egg-free sponge cake with the right know-how. You can also buy “egg replacer”.
Always carry emergency medicine if prescribed, and consider wearing egg allergy alert wristbands and jewellery. Make sure that all those who care for an egg-allergic child are fully informed. If you are concerned about your diet, ask your doctor for advice. The vaccines for flu, yellow fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever should be avoided for people with egg allergy, but normal childhood vaccinations and the MMR vaccine are generally advised.