Eggs are one of the of the most nutritious food items and contain a rich amount of protein. They can be fried, boiled, or baked and are featured in numerous delicious recipes. Indeed, eggs can be found in many cuisines, regardless of where you originate from.
This is because there are different types of eggs including chicken, duck, quail, goose, and turkey, to name a few. Surprisingly, some people are allergic to eggs.
Of course, a food allergy is not a novel thing, as foods like peanuts and dairy are known to cause allergic responses in many children and adults. Eggs have joined the list of popular food allergies and some people are simply intolerant.
When someone has an egg allergy, they may end up avoiding eggs as much as possible to avoid an allergic reaction. However, eggs are featured in many food products and recipes including cakes, pancakes, some shakes, and even many desserts and other foods.
It is easy to accidentally consume egg ingredients without even knowing it, but there is no cause for worry, as most side effects are subtle and quickly fade away.
Some rare cases can develop into a severe allergic response, which is known as anaphylaxis, so it is still very important to learn about the allergy and what to do if you or someone you know is allergic to eggs and consumes them.
What Is An Egg Allergy?
According to statistics, more children (about 2%) have an egg allergy than adults in the US. Those who are allergic to eggs must have had a previous exposure when the allergic responses were first noted.
An Egg allergy simply happens when your body cannot recognize or process the protein compounds found in eggs.
When your body cannot recognize or process the egg protein compounds, the body instead recognizes these proteins as foreign, harmful substances that should be fought off.
As a counteraction, your immune system begins to produce histamine and other defense chemicals to fight off the proteins. This eventually results in an allergic reaction, which can involve both external and internal symptoms.
Some of the common symptoms of an allergic response towards eggs include:
- Various skin reactions like rashes, swelling, eczema, and hives
- Wheezing and difficulty in breathing
- Runny nose, sneezing, and flu-like symptoms
- Watery eye or red eye, often caused by too much sneezing and wheezing
- Stomach pain and upset stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anaphylaxis (in rare cases)
Egg allergy symptoms can occur immediately after eating or touching eggs, or after eating or touching products made with eggs.
Some people may experience symptoms a few minutes later. Usually, people can be allergic to egg whites, egg yolks, or both. Egg white allergies are the most popular.
Egg Allergy Risk Factors
Like other foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, an egg allergy can pretty much affect anyone and is typically developed during childhood. However, some people have a higher risk of developing allergic responses to eggs than others due to various factors.
Children are more prone to egg allergies. More specifically, children who suffer skin conditions, such as eczema, within their first 6-15 months are at a higher risk of developing egg allergy.
Another important player is genetics, as children whose parents (one or both) have an egg allergy can also develop the allergic responses from a young age.
Some people experience seasonal allergies where the symptoms are more likely to occur in certain seasons and are typically milder during other seasons. Adults rarely develop an egg allergy, and those who are diagnosed with allergic responses were probably already allergic from childhood without actually knowing it.
As aforementioned, some symptoms, such as an upset stomach, are quite subtle and also associated with other factors, which make them easy to overlook. In adults, the reactions are typically of low intensity and may be a short-lived period of nausea or increase in eczema flares.
Those allergic to one type of egg, such as chicken eggs, may also find out that they are allergic to eggs from other poultry.
What Is Egg Intolerance?
Many people confuse food allergies with an intolerance, especially since some symptoms are closely related. However, these are two different reactions. One can have an egg intolerance without actually being allergic to eggs.
A food allergy involves the body’s immune system releasing chemicals to fight off the compounds found in the food you are allergic to, causing an allergic reaction. In fact, it is more correctly defined as an abnormal immune reaction to specific foods.
Intolerance, on the other hand, largely entails difficulty in handling (digesting or absorbing) certain ingredients. This could be as a result of insufficient enzymes. For instance, those who are lactose intolerant are simply deficient of the enzyme lactase, which is required to digest lactose (a form of sugar that occurs in dairy products).
Egg intolerance refers to a condition where the body cannot adequately digest or absorb egg proteins. Food intolerance can always be managed by consuming small amounts of the particular item.
Most people with egg intolerance are only intolerant to egg whites (albumen), but can safely eat egg yolks. While the two share several proteins, there are some compounds like albumen that are only found in egg whites and not in yolks.
Does Egg Intolerance Also Cause Symptoms?
Of course, intolerance just like a full-blown allergy, has symptoms that vary in severity. They may be as undesirable as excessive gas, bloating, and nausea, to mild stomach pain, vomiting, cramping, and gastrointestinal issues.
Other patients also report headaches, breathing troubles, skin problems, joint pain, heartburn, nervousness, and irritability. It is therefore important to know the distinction between egg allergy and intolerance.
Some of the basic differences between food allergy and intolerance include:
- Happens suddenly, usually a few minutes after coming into contact with the eggs
- Can be triggered even by the smallest amount of egg or egg product
- Occurs each time you eat eggs and egg products
- The symptoms can be life-threatening when they develop into anaphylaxis
- Happens gradually and symptoms can take time to show
- May occur following consumption of a lot of eggs and smaller amounts may never trigger the reaction
- Happens when you eat eggs more often
- The symptoms are never life-threatening
Most allergic and intolerant reactions share these differences for all allergenic foods. Intolerance can be caused by the inability to digest a particular ingredient within the food. This means you can still eat food items from which the agitating compound has been removed.
Going by the above example, there are some dairy products from which the main sugar (lactose) has been removed to make it more tolerable for those who are lactose intolerant, such as special ice creams.
One good thing about egg allergy is that most children (up to 70%) who suffer the condition grow out of it by the time they are 16 years old.
Eggs And Vaccinations
More studies and publications continue to reveal the relationship between eggs and vaccines. Many vaccines offered to children and adults contain some egg proteins or are made using egg-based technology.
The common flu shots, for instance, are made from egg-based technology and contain a variable of egg protein known as ovalbumin. According to the CDC website, flu shots and nasal sprays given are all made from this technology and therefore all contain some egg compounds in them.
However, this is not only so for common flu vaccines, as eggs are also used in MMR vaccines (measles, mumps, and rubella) and yellow fever vaccine, which is required when traveling to South Africa and other African countries.
For this reason, several concerns have been raised regarding vaccination of children who are allergic or intolerant to eggs. As recommended by physicians and pediatricians, staying away from eggs and egg products is the only sure way to prevent allergies and intolerance.
If your child experiences nasty symptoms following vaccination, it is advisable to seek prompt medical attention. You should also practice reviewing ingredient labels before vaccinating or even before consuming any processed food.
Egg products and proteins can have several names including albumin/albumen, globulin, livetin, lecithin, lysozyme, simples, and vitellin. Other ingredients may also feature the prefix ova or ovo, which are used to refer to ovum (a Latin word for egg).
Popular food items that contain eggs include bread and cakes, ice creams, pancakes, quiches, mayonnaise, puddings, sauces, biscuits, and spreads. Other non-food items like makeup, finger-paint, shampoos, and some medications also contain egg protein.
Egg allergies can result in mild to severe reactions, including life-threatening anaphylaxis. If you have an allergic or intolerance response, but still need to prepare one of those appetizing meals from egg recipes, there are other options.
You do not have to discard every egg recipe. Instead, you should seek alternatives for replacement. Eggs are used in many cooking recipes for their binding properties, but there are many other food items that also have this property. Some of the best include:
Applesauce can be used to replace eggs in cake and muffin recipes. It also works in quick breads. The natural, organic, unflavored (unsweetened) applesauce will keep your breads and muffins moist enough, just like eggs do. Where you would use one egg, replace with ¼ cup applesauce.
Baking Soda & Vinegar
This is another perfect replacement for eggs, especially in recipes that require the use of more than one egg. It can be used for muffins, cakes, and quick breads to keep your baked foods fluffy and moist.
Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of vinegar and water. Use this mixture to replace one egg.
This is already a popular replacement for those who are allergic to eggs. Some muffin and cake recipes actually taste better with banana puree than with eggs. Many families also use fruit purees to make sure their muffins, quick breads, and cakes remain tasty and different.
Simply mash up some bananas or other fruit purees and replace one egg with ¼ cup of the puree. Remember to adjust sugar levels accordingly, as overripe bananas and pumpkins tend to be very sweet.
Chia And Flax Seeds
Ground chia seed and flax seed have been used to replace eggs in yeast breads, brownies, cookies, muffins, pancakes, quick breads, and even other pastries. Simply add one tablespoon of the ground seed to 3 tablespoons of water and use the mixture to replace one egg. You can use a coffee grinder to grind the seeds before adding to water and setting in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.
The texture is quite similar to eggs, and its binding capabilities are exceptional, with an added nutritional bonus.
There are many powdered egg replacers available in the supermarket and choosing a reliable one should not be a problem. The best powdered egg replacers are made using tapioca and potato starch.
You can even buy the starches and make this egg replacer at home for your bread, muffin, and cake recipes. It is also free of eggs, wheat, gluten, casein, yeast, dairy, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts, which is perfect for both vegans and non-vegans allergic to eggs.
The market also offers finished egg replacers that need no preparation at all. However, it is important to be careful with such products, especially since some manufacturers add several other ingredients for flavoring and shelf life.
They are also highly processed foods, which may have different side effects.
Egg alternatives in recipes cannot be exhausted. Simply make sure the option does not damage your recipe or change the flavor altogether.
The above five alternatives will retain your original recipe and only make it slightly different so that your favorite meals are still tasty enough for the whole family.
Egg Allergy Summary
If you have children who are allergic to eggs and egg products, expect them to grow out of the problem as they grow into teens and youths. All you need to do is remove eggs from their food and supplies to prevent the symptoms.
Unfortunately, some allergies stay with you for the rest of your life, but this should be no issue. People are allergic to different types of food and there are better alternatives to eggs.
In fact, some people totally keep eggs and other animal products from their diet entirely. If the symptoms are subtle, you can eat small amounts and evaluate the side effects. If eating eggs causes adverse symptoms, then it may be best to avoid them altogether.
Those with intolerance can survive eating small amounts of eggs without experiencing any problem. It is also necessary to determine if you are allergic to all egg proteins or just some.
You can do this by speaking to a doctor that specializes in treating people with allergies. You may still be able to enjoy egg yolks or egg whites. Make sure that you only use eggs that are in good condition if you do choose to use eggs.
Eggs go bad very quickly when the inside contents are exposed, so cracked and damaged eggs should never be used. Seek prompt medical attention to relieve any severe symptom of allergy.