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Understanding Egg Allergies In Babies

February 10, 2022 4 min read

Scrambled, soft boiled, or mixed into a puree – eggs are fantastic and much-loved by many of our little ones. A great sensory food with a yummy taste, eggs are also packed with protein and other important nutrients important for healthy growth and development

But with rising egg allergy rates, eggs have been identified as one of the nine most common food allergens in the United States. An egg allergy not only affects your child's nutritional health but can have rippling effects on their quality of life, from living in fear around food to feeling restricted in their daily activities. 

That’s why at SpoonfulONE we’re on a mission to fight these rising rates. Ready to learn more? Here’s what parents need to know about egg allergies.

How Common Is An Egg Allergy In Babies?

Affected by both genetic and environmental factors, a food allergy occurs when your child's immune system decides that a certain food is a "danger" to their health. Their immune system starts sending out immunoglobulin E (or IgE) antibodies that react to the food and cause an allergic reaction. In the case of egg, this reaction can occur to a protein in both the egg white and the egg yolk, though an allergy to egg whites is most common.

According to FARE, egg allergies are more common in infants and young children, rather than adults, with around 2% of children showing symptoms of an egg allergy.

And every year, food allergy rates are increasing. The CDC reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children has increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, with as many as 6 million children in the United States developing some form of food allergy. 

What Does An Egg Allergy Look Like?

Though the most common reaction to an egg allergy is skin inflammation or hives, reactions can range from mild to severe, like swelling or anaphylaxis. 

Most food-related allergy symptoms occur within minutes of eating, but allergic reactions can still occur within 2-4 hours of ingestion or simply even touching eggs. Signs that your baby has developed an egg allergy may include:

  • Stomach distress including vomiting, cramps, indigestion, or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Repetitive cough, hoarse voice, or tightness in the throat
  • Hives, red skin, or swelling around the face, mouth, or tongue
  • Confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • In rare cases, anaphylaxis

If your child has shown a reaction to egg, you should have your pediatrician test for a food allergy. Common testing methods include a skin prick test, IgE testing, and an oral food challenge. 

There is also a difference between an egg allergy and egg intolerance. Depending on the body’s response, it can be hard to decipher the difference between a food sensitivity and a true food allergy. If you are unsure, speak to your pediatrician and they can outline a plan of care. 

Long-Lasting Effects Of An Egg Allergy

According to the ACAAI, about 40% of children with a food allergy are allergic to more than one food. Studies show that children with a hen egg allergy may also be allergic to other types of eggs, such as goose, duck, turkey, or quail. 

However, if your child has been diagnosed with an egg allergy they still may be able to tolerate baked egg. One study shows that 70% of children with an egg allergy can consume baked egg without a reaction, as heating disrupts the protein responsible for the reaction. Before introducing any baked egg products, speak to your pediatrician. 

Fortunately, most children will outgrow their allergy to egg, with one study showing 71% of children outgrew their allergy by age six. But there is no guarantee that your child will outgrow their food allergies, and some persist into adulthood and become lifelong.

Lastly, studies have shown that children with a food allergy are two to four times as likely to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

How To Manage Egg Allergies

As it is impossible to completely separate egg yolk from egg white, if your child has an egg allergy to one of these proteins they must avoid eggs completely. Egg protein is often a hidden ingredient and can appear in surprising foods. 

Eggs can be found in foods such as:

  • Baked goods
  • Canned soups
  • Mayonnaise and salad dressings
  • Meringue, puddings,or custards
  • Breads and tortillas
  • Chips and crackers
  • Pasta
  • Processed meat or meatballs
  • Marshmallows
  • Ice cream
  • Some egg substitutes also contain egg proteins

Egg is required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 to be listed in clear language on the ingredient label by manufacturers of packaged food products. But even if a label states that the product is egg-free, it may still contain or have been cross-contaminated with egg proteins. When in doubt, avoid the food completely or contact the manufacturer. 

How To Avoid An Egg Allergy In Babies

We know that no parent wants to see their child suffer from food allergies, but unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they can be avoided. 

However, there is still hope. Groundbreaking clinical studies, like LEAP and EAT, have taught us that babies who were given potentially allergenic foods as a regular part of their diet were less likely to develop a food allergy. 

According to the AAP and the USDA’s latest guidelines, you can (and should!) start introducing allergenic foods like egg to your baby alongside other solids. In fact, experts now consider it safe for your child to start allergen introduction as early as four months, rather than later in life. 

At SpoonfulONE, we believe regular, consistent exposure to common allergens in the diet throughout early childhood is key to staying healthy.