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Sharp Health News

Egg allergies in children

Jan. 17, 2018

Egg allergies in children

Egg allergy is the second most common allergy in children — more prevalent than shellfish, wheat and even peanuts. While most children will eventually outgrow it, reactions to eggs range from mild itchiness to, in rare instances, shock. So knowing when and how to introduce them is often a concern for new parents.

We asked Dr. John Pauls, a board-certified allergy and immunology doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, to share important information about eggs, allergies and the best course of action for making them part of your child's diet.

There are varying approaches to introducing eggs. Which one is best?
To start, parents should talk to their child's doctor — and always keep an open line of communication. Timing will depend on the doctor and the child. Secondly, ask yourself if there is a family history of egg allergy, or if your child has exhibited symptoms of allergy, eczema, hay fever or asthma.

  • If YES:
    Your doctor will most likely verify the history with a blood or skin allergy test. If the test is positive, the doctor's recommendation will vary depending on the type of allergy history and the test results.

  • If NO:
    Without a history of allergy, your doctor will most likely recommend a gradual introduction. Start with typically nonreactive foods, then slowly try foods more likely to cause a reaction — such as milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat.

What egg products should a parent be aware of?
Be cautioned of foods that contain eggs — dried, powdered, solids, whites, yolks — or any of these ingredients:

  • Albumin
  • Eggnog
  • Lysozyme                                   
  • Mayonnaise
  • Meringue (meringue powder)
  • Ovalbumin
  • Surimi

Eggs are also sometimes found in the following:

  • Baked goods
  • Egg substitutes
  • Ice cream
  • Lecithin
  • Marzipan
  • Marshmallows
  • Nougat

Are both the yolks and the whites equal in terms of potential allergy?
No, the whites are usually more risky — but it is difficult to physically separate the two. As a result, cross-contamination can occur. So generally, both should be avoided.

What are the signs that a child is allergic to eggs?
Symptoms can include itchy mouth, throat or skin; swelling of the lips or tongue; hives; generalized flushing; hoarseness; vomiting; diarrhea; shortness of breath; cough; wheezing; and dizziness. Symptoms, if related to egg allergy, should occur within minutes to an hour of eating egg.

What should a parent do if a child exhibits those signs?
If the reaction with introducing egg is mild, over-the-counter diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) should be given according to the bottle instructions. If the reaction is severe, a pre-prescribed injectable epinephrine should be given, followed by calling 911.

Talk to your child's doctor, as recommended responses will subsequently depend on history and severity. When in doubt, always consult a medical professional immediately.

For children with a positive diagnosis, what tips do you have for parents on managing it?
I recommend visiting the Food Allergy Research & Education website. They have invaluable resources on managing all kinds of allergies, including egg.

Can children with an egg allergy get the flu shot?
In the past, the vaccine's egg content, while low, did pose a risk. But as of the 2018 flu season, the answer is yes — even for those with a history of severe egg allergy reactions.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. John Pauls about egg allergy for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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