One of the more common allergies in children, egg allergy usually starts in infancy. Fortunately, most children grow out of egg allergy, mostly before they reach school age. But as long as a child is experiencing any allergy symptoms, it’s important to avoid eggs (and all foods that contain eggs).
Which part of the egg causes allergy?
Allergic reactions are typically due to egg white, but the egg yolk can also be responsible. In a few children, raw egg is more likely to cause a reaction than small amounts of egg that are cooked or baked (in a cake, for example). But it's safer to avoid all foods that contain egg when buying or preparing food for any child with a diagnosed egg allergy.
Introducing egg to infants
The old idea that avoiding foods like eggs helps prevent infants developing allergies is not supported by research. Around 6 months of age, while continuing breastfeeding, babies should be introduced to a variety of foods, including cooked egg. Eggs should be cooked because raw eggs can carry bacteria.
As with all new foods, it’s best to introduce cooked egg on its own or with foods that your baby is already having. That way, you can identify any adverse reactions, which may signal an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of egg allergy
Any symptoms of egg allergy will usually start a few minutes after consuming egg. Occasionally, signs of the allergy may not appear for up to 2 hours.
Mild symptoms may include:
More serious symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the tongue or throat
- hoarse voice or difficulty speaking
- wheeze or constant cough
- becoming pale, floppy or dizzy, or collapsing
If your child has any of these dangerous symptoms, call triple zero (000) or go straight to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Diagnosis of egg allergy
If your child has any symptoms of egg allergy, see your doctor. Special blood tests can diagnose the cause of allergic reactions. Don’t trust other tests that may be offered online or from people without proper medical qualifications.
Most children will outgrow their allergy to eggs. To check if your child is no longer allergic to egg, see your doctor who can arrange for a supervised test.
Foods that may contain eggs
Packaged foods that contain egg must state this in bold print in the ingredient list on the label. Always check food labels, especially with any food or brand of food that you have not used before. Food Standards Australia New Zealand has a long list of foods that can contain egg.
Common foods that often contain egg include:
- cakes, muffins, croissants and biscuits
- pastries, tarts, pancakes, pikelets, donuts, meringues and brioche
- desserts such as custard, mousse, puddings, pavlova, ice cream and other frozen desserts
- chocolate, marshmallows and confectionery
- battered or crumbed foods such as fish fingers or schnitzel
- various types of burgers, including veggie burgers
- malted drinks and drink powders that can be added to milk
- egg noodles or pasta
- French toast
- frittata and quiche
- fried rice and other Asian dishes
- lemon butter
- dips and sauces
Some bread and buns have a shiny top because they’ve been glazed with egg before being baked. For packaged products, check the label to see if egg has been used. If you're dining out or are in a store and there’s no label, ask the sales assistant or waiter if the product contains egg.
Cooking without eggs
Eggs can be replaced in many dishes when you cook. Cake recipes without eggs are available online. Or, for each egg you want to substitute in a recipe, mix together 1 teaspoon each of baking soda, water and white vinegar.
To help burger mixtures hold together, replace an egg with ¼ cup mashed potato or pumpkin.
Egg allergy and vaccinations
Some vaccines are grown in eggs. But the traces of egg protein that remain after the vaccine is made are so tiny (less than 1 microgram per dose of the influenza vaccine, for example) that in most cases, people and children with egg allergy can be safely vaccinated. The following vaccines may contain small, residual amounts of egg protein:
- Seasonal inactivated influenza vaccines (the flu vaccine)
- Pandemic inactivated influenza vaccines (e.g. H1N1, bird or swine flu vaccines)
- Yellow fever vaccine
- Q fever vaccine
The amount of residual egg protein in Yellow fever and Q fever vaccines is generally higher than in seasonal influenza and H1N1 vaccines. If you're allergic to egg and need the Yellow fever vaccine (if travelling to affected countries, for example) or the Q fever vaccine (if you work with animals, for example), you should talk to your allergy or immunology specialist first.
Most people are asked to wait in the place they received their vaccination for 15 minutes in case there are any adverse effects. If you’re very concerned, ask staff if you, or your child, can be observed for 30 minutes after the vaccination.
For more information
Last reviewed: April 2018