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Egg Allergy

Helping your child manage an egg allergy means being aware of what he or she eats and reading food labels carefully. It's work, but it's important.

About Egg Allergy

Eggs in themselves aren't bad, but when someone is allergic to them, the body thinks they are. When a person is allergic to eggs, the body's immune system overreacts to proteins in the egg. So every time something made with eggs enters the digestive system, the body thinks that these proteins are harmful invaders.

The immune system responds by creating specific antibodies to that food, which are designed to fight off the "invader." These antibodies — called immunoglobulin E (IgE) — trigger the release of certain chemicals into the body, one of which is histamine.

So when a child with an egg allergy eats a food that contains eggs, the immune system unleashes an army of chemicals to protect the body. The release of these chemicals can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and the cardiovascular system — causing allergy symptoms like wheezing, nausea, headache, stomachache, and itchy hives.

Most people who are allergic react to the proteins in egg whites, but some can't tolerate proteins in the yolk. Egg allergy usually first appears when kids are very young, and most kids outgrow it by the time they're 5 years old.

Egg allergy is like most food allergy reactions: It usually happens within minutes to hours after eating eggs. Most reactions last less than a day and may affect these three body systems:

  1. the skin: in the form of red, bumpy rashes (hives), eczema, or redness and swelling around the mouth
  2. the gastrointestinal tract: in the form of belly cramps, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  3. the respiratory tract: symptoms can range from a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing to the triggering of asthma with coughing and wheezing

Most kids with egg allergy have some of the reactions listed above, but a few may have a very strong reaction called anaphylaxis. This severe allergic reaction causes swelling of the mouth, throat, and airways leading to the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulty. In addition, there is a dangerous drop in blood pressure, which can make a child dizzy or pass out, and may quickly lead to shock.

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