What Causes an Egg Allergy?
An allergy is generally caused by a protein found in a food that causes an abnormal reaction in a person's immune system. Two factors are necessary for a food allergy to occur are genetic predisposition and exposure to the food. The reaction varies from mild to life-threatening, depending on the person and the amount of egg consumed.
An egg allergy usually occurs during the first year of life-when eggs are first introduced to a baby's diet.
Introducing Eggs to a Baby’s Diet
If there is no family history of food allergies, introduce cooked egg yolk at 6 months of age and cooked egg white at about 12 months. Start with 1 small spoon of cooked egg yolk per day, and increase slowly to 3 egg yolks per week. Baby's first birthday is a good time to try a whole egg.
If a breast-fed baby is found to be allergic to eggs, the mother may be advised to stop eating eggs until the breastfeeding ends.
Duration of an Egg Allergy
This is one of the few allergies that can last a lifetime. Fortunately, most children outgrow their egg allergy by 5 to 7 years of age. However, if it is severe, it could last a lifetime. An allergist may suggest a gradual increase in the consumption of foods that contain eggs, leading up to the whole egg, however you must check with an allergist before trying this.
What Treatments are Available?
If you or your child has been diagnosed with an egg allergy (either to the white or yolk), the only treatment is to avoid eggs completely. This includes foods and other products containing eggs, as well as foods that may have come in contact with eggs.
For a list of ingredients that may indicate the presence of eggs click here.
Egg-Free Baking is Possible
When baking for someone with an egg allergy, you can use an egg substitute. For best results, use recipes calling for only 1 or 2 eggs, and for each egg, substitute ONE of the following:
- 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder, 25 mL (1½ tbsp) water and 25 mL (1½ tbsp) oil
- 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder, 15 mL (1 tbsp) water and 15 mL (1 tbsp) vinegar
- 5 mL (1 tsp) yeast dissolved in 50 mL (¼ cup) warm water
- 1 packet of unflavoured gelatin, 30 mL (2 tbsp) of warm water. Do not combine until ready to use.
- ½ medium mashed banana
Commercial egg substitutes, such as Kingsmill Foods Egg Replacer®, Celimix Brand Egg Replacer® and Ener-g Egg Replacer® are available and can be ordered directly from the company. They can also be found in some health food stores or the natural food section of some grocery stores.
Eggs are an Important Part of a Healthy Diet
Eggs are one of nature's healthiest foods. They contain valuable high-quality protein along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as folate, vitamin B12, zinc, iron and phosphorus. Eliminating eggs from the diet significantly reduces food choices and means missing out on many health benefits. If you are concerned that you or your allergic child is not getting all the nutrients required, ask your local clinic or doctor for a referral to a dietitian. You can also contact Dietitians of Canada at www.dietitians.ca. A registered dietitian will help you manage food choices without sacrificing good health or the pleasure of eating.