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Facts on egg allergies

Did you know that eggs are one of the most common causes of food allergies? For people with an egg allergy, avoiding eggs and foods that contain eggs while still eating a healthy diet is important. Read on to get the facts on egg allergies.

What is an egg allergy?

An egg allergy is a reaction to the proteins found in eggs. Your body’s immune system reacts to the egg proteins (mostly in egg whites) and then triggers a variety of symptoms. Sometimes, these reactions can be life threatening for some people. The only way to avoid having a reaction if you are allergic to eggs is to avoid eating eggs and foods that contain eggs.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Like other food allergies, having an allergic reaction to eggs can include any of the following symptoms:

  • Flushed face and body
  • Itchy eyes, nose, face and skin
  • Tingling, numbness or pain in the lips and tongue
  • Hives 
  • Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting 
  • Wheezing, coughing 

More severe symptoms can include: 

  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Weakness, dizziness 
  • Anxiety, distress, sense of fear and doom
  • Difficulty talking, swallowing or breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Unconsciousness

The symptoms of an allergy can develop in minutes or up to 72 hours after eating foods that contain egg.  Reactions can also quickly change from having mild symptoms to those that are more severe.

When is an egg allergy usually diagnosed?

Egg allergies are usually diagnosed in childhood and are more common in children under the age of five.

What do I do if my baby has an egg allergy?

If your baby has been diagnosed with an egg allergy, it is important to avoid feeding your baby eggs and foods that contain eggs.  If your infant is breastfed, you must also avoid eating egg and foods that contain eggs. Egg proteins can pass into your breast milk and cause allergy symptoms.

Can an egg allergy be outgrown?

Yes. Research shows that most children outgrow their egg allergy by the time they are three years of age.  For some children, a severe egg allergy can last a lifetime. Speak with your doctor before giving your child eggs or foods that contain eggs.

What foods may contain egg?

Eggs can be found in a variety of foods, even when you don’t expect it.  Stricter Canadian guidelines require that egg-containing products are clearly labeled. The ingredient list will say “contains: egg” if it contains this ingredient.

The following foods may contain egg:

  • Baby food
  • Baked goods and baking mixes like breads, cakes, cookies and muffins
  • Battered or fried foods
  • Confectionary like candy and chocolate
  • Creamy dressings, salad dressings and spreads like mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing
  • Desserts like custards, ice cream, meringue and pudding
  • Icing and glazes like egg wash on baked goods
  • Meat mixtures like hamburgers, hot dogs, meatballs and deli meats
  • Pasta like egg noodles
  • Quiche and soufflés
  • Sauces like hollandaise
  • Soups, broths and bouillons

What are other names for egg?

Eggs can also be found in foods using a different name.  Any ingredient listed with “ovo” should be avoided, like ovoglobulin. 

Look out for these other names for eggs, such as:

  • Albumin/Albumen
  • Conalbumin
  • Egg substitutes
  • Globulin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Meringue
  • Ovalbumin
  • Silico-albuminate
  • Vitellin

Tips on following an egg free diet

  1. Read the ingredient labels every time you shop. Stricter Canadian guidelines require that egg-containing products are clearly labeled. Food manufactures may occasionally change their recipe or use different ingredients.
  2. Call the manufacturer if you have questions about their products. Many food packages have a telephone number on them.
  3. Avoid all foods that state that the product “may contain” or “does contain” egg or egg products.
  4. Be informed. Sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) free email “Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts” notification service.
  5. Don’t take any chances. Avoid products that do not have an ingredient list.
  6. Foods labelled as “vegan” are egg-free. Look for vegan soups and sauces.
  7. Plain cooked grains and plain oatmeal are healthy breakfast options that are egg-free. Avoid instant cream of wheat and instant oatmeal.
  8. Avoid adding condiments like mayonnaise, salad dressings and sandwich spreads that may contain eggs.
  9. When eating out, choose grilled or roasted meat, fish or poultry or salads with oil and vinegar dressing on the side. 
  10. Fresh fruit makes a great dessert choice, especially when in season. Avoid desserts that contain custards, creams and puddings.

How do I bake without eggs?

When baking, use the following substitutions for eggs:

Mix 1/3 cup ground flax seed in 1 cup of water.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Simmer for 3 minutes. Refrigerate. One Tbsp of the mixture = 1 egg

¼ cup tofu (2 oz) = 1 egg

1 banana = 1 egg (good for cakes, pancakes)

Bottom line

You can still eat a healthy and balanced diet following Canada’s Food Guide if you have an egg allergy. If you aren’t sure if a product contains eggs or an egg ingredient, don’t take any chances.  Reading the ingredient list every time is important to avoid having an allergic reaction to eggs. Call the manufacturer if you have questions about a product.

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Food allergies and intolerances Learning about allergies for your little one

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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