To diagnose egg allergy, your doctor will use several approaches, including ruling out other conditions that could be causing symptoms. In many cases, what seems to be an egg allergy is actually caused by food intolerance, which is generally less serious than food allergy and doesn't involve the immune system.
Your doctor takes a medical history and conducts a physical exam. He or she may also recommend one or more of the following tests:
- Skin prick test. In this test, the skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the proteins found in eggs. If you or your child has egg allergy, a raised bump (hive) may develop at the test location. Allergy specialists are generally best equipped to perform and interpret allergy skin tests.
- Blood test. A blood test can measure the immune system's response to eggs by checking the amount of certain antibodies in the bloodstream that may indicate an allergic reaction.
- Food challenge. This test involves giving you or your child a small amount of egg to see if it causes a reaction. If nothing happens, more egg is given while the doctor watches for signs of a food allergy. Because this test can cause a severe reaction, an allergy specialist should give it.
- Food tracking or elimination diet. Your or your child's doctor may have you keep a detailed diary of foods eaten and may ask you to eliminate eggs or other foods from the diet one at a time to see whether symptoms improve.
The only way to prevent egg allergy symptoms is to avoid eggs or egg products. Some people with egg allergies, however, can tolerate foods that contain well-cooked eggs, such as baked goods.
Antihistamines to ease symptoms
Medications such as antihistamines may reduce signs and symptoms of a mild egg allergy. These drugs can be taken after exposure to eggs. They aren't effective for preventing an allergic egg reaction or for treating a severe reaction.
Emergency epinephrine shots
You may need to carry an emergency epinephrine injector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) at all times. Anaphylaxis requires an epinephrine shot, a trip to the emergency room and observation for a time to be sure symptoms don't return.
Learn how to use the autoinjector. If your child has one, make sure caregivers have access to it and know how to use it. If your child is old enough, make sure he or she understands how to use it. Replace the autoinjector before its expiration date.
Most children eventually outgrow egg allergy. Talk to your child's doctor about frequency of testing to see whether eggs still cause symptoms. It may be unsafe for you to test your child's reaction to eggs at home, particularly if your child has had a severe reaction to eggs in the past.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll likely begin by seeing your family doctor or pediatrician. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in allergic disorders (allergist-immunologist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. For example, if you're going to have allergy testing, the doctor will want you to avoid taking antihistamines for a time before the test.
- Write down symptoms, including those that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of medications, vitamins and supplements that you or your child is taking.
- Write down questions to ask the doctor.
For egg allergy, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
- What tests are needed? Do they require special preparation?
- Is this reaction most likely caused by an egg allergy?
- What other conditions may be causing these symptoms?
- Will my child or I need to avoid eggs, or are certain egg products OK?
- Where can I find information on foods most likely to contain eggs?
- What should I tell my child's school about his or her allergy?
- My child or I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Do I — or does my child — need to carry an autoinjector?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can take? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from the doctor
The doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
- When was your first reaction to eating eggs?
- Can you describe the reaction?
- Does this happen every time you or your child eats eggs or something made with eggs?
- How soon do symptoms start after consuming eggs or products containing eggs?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- Does anything seem to improve symptoms, such as taking allergy medication or avoiding certain foods?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?
- Is anyone in the family allergic to eggs or other foods?
- Do you or does your child have other allergic disorders, such as eczema, hay fever or asthma?
What you can do in the meantime
If you or your child has mild allergy symptoms after eating something containing eggs, taking an antihistamine may help ease the discomfort. But, be on the lookout for worsening symptoms that might require medical attention. If you or your child has a severe reaction, seek immediate medical care. Call 911 or your local emergency number.
Jan. 27, 2015