What is an egg allergy?
Most egg allergies are caused by a reaction to the proteins in the white of eggs. Some children are also allergic to the proteins found in the yolk. As a result, some children react to all forms of egg: well cooked, such as a hard-boiled egg; loosely cooked, such as a soft-boiled egg; or raw egg, as you would find in fresh mayonnaise. Other children are allergic to only lightly cooked and raw egg. This is because cooking destroys some of these allergens, but not all of them.
Like most allergies, egg allergies are more common in children than in adults and, according to the Food Standards Agency, around half of all children will outgrow them by the time they are three. Most children develop the allergy in their first year.
The symptoms vary from child to child. A common reaction is to develop hives (an itchy, bumpy rash), or eczema. Other symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, and sickness. Runny noses and sneezing are also common, and an egg allergy can cause coughing and wheezing. In some rare cases it can cause anaphylaxis.
Foods to avoid
Depending on the type of your child’s egg allergy, he may need to avoid:
Well cooked egg:
- All forms of egg (boiled, fried, poached, omelettes)
- Cakes and biscuits containing egg
- Dried egg pasta
- Quorn ™
- Processed meat containing egg
- Some gravies
- Some chocolate bars with fillings
Loosely cooked egg:
- Lightly cooked egg (soft-boiled, poached, scrambled, fried)
- Lemon curd
- Egg custard
- Bread and butter pudding
- Yorkshire pudding
- Sauces like hollandaise
- Fresh mousse
- Fresh mayonnaise
- Fresh ice cream
- Raw cake mix
- Cheese that contains egg white lysozyme
- Fondant icing (for example, in some chocolates)
Alternatives to egg and egg-free products are sold in most supermarkets and health food shops. Egg-free mayonnaise, omelette mix, cookies, pasta, noodles and ready meals are now readily available and easy to find either on the high street, or from specialist online retailers.
Unfortunately, there are no egg-free products available on prescription to children or adults. However, egg replacers (used in cooking) are available, and can be bought from pharmacists or health food shops and these are sometimes available on prescription: ask your GP for details.
Avoiding egg is easier than it used to be because according to EU law, if a product contains egg, it must be stated on the label. Nevertheless, egg products are widely used to bind foods together, and can be disguised or appear under another name, including:
- Egg lecithin (E322)
Avoiding whole eggs when you’re eating out is relatively straightforward, but because they are used so widely in other forms, particularly in cakes and pastries, egg-allergic children – especially those with a more severe allergy – can struggle.
Many restaurants do not cook completely from scratch. This means that even the chef might not know that if there are eggs or egg products in the food. Choosing simple foods for your child, such as grilled meats served with vegetables, is one option. Another is to avoid anything with a sauce.
You can also talk to your waiter or waitress, and ask them if you can see the packaging of any processed foods or ingredients to establish whether they are egg-free.
Phoning ahead and asking for a menu is a good idea and gives you time to look up anything you are not sure of.
Taking some emergency snacks is also wise: if all else fails and most of the menu is off-limits, at least your child will have something to nibble on.