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
- 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
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 baby is breastfed, you must also avoid eating eggs 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 within a few years. For some children, a severe egg allergy can last a lifetime. Speak with your healthcare provider or allergist 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. Canadian guidelines require that egg-containing products are clearly labeled. Always read the ingredient list carefully. The ingredient list will say “contains: egg” if it contains this ingredient. If a product does not contain eggs, but there is a risk of the food having come into contact with egg (through cross-contamination), you will see “may contain egg” listed at the end of the ingredient list. It is best to also avoid these foods.
The following foods may contain egg:
- Baby food
- Baked goods and baking mixes like breads, cakes, cookies and muffins
- Battered or fried foods
- Sweets like candy and chocolate
- Creamy dressings, salad dressings and spreads like mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing
- Desserts like custard, 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
- Alcoholic drinks
What are other names for egg?
In Canada, it is no longer permitted for products to use other names for eggs without also having the word "egg" on the label. This is because eggs are a common (priority) allergen.
However, if you have an egg allergy, and you see any of the following ingredients on a label, you should not eat this food.
Look out for these other names for eggs, such as:
- Egg substitutes
- Ovo (means egg), e.g. ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovotransferrin
Note: this is not a complete list. Speak to your dietitian
or allergist for more information.
Are eggs from different animals safe to eat?
Eggs from other animals like duck, geese and quail contain a protein similar to those found in eggs from chickens and may also cause an allergic reaction. Check with your healthcare provider or allergist before eating these types of eggs.
Tips on following an egg-free diet
- Read the ingredient list every time you shop. Canadian guidelines require that egg-containing products are clearly labeled with the words “Contains: Egg” after the ingredient list. It may also say “May contain eggs” if there is a chance the product has come into contact with eggs. Food manufactures may occasionally change their recipe or use different ingredients.
- Call the manufacturer if you have questions about their products. Many food packages have a telephone number on them.
- Avoid all foods that state that the product “may contain” or “contains” egg or egg products.
- Be informed. Sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) free email “Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts” notification service.
- Don’t take any chances. Avoid products that do not have an ingredient list or those that contain ingredients that you do not recognize
- Watch out for cross-contamination which can happen when a small amount of egg gets into food while cooking or handling other food products.
- Foods labelled as “vegan” are egg-free. Look for vegan soups and sauces. But always read the label to make sure.
- Plain cooked grains and plain oatmeal are healthy breakfast options that are egg-free. Avoid instant cream of wheat and instant oatmeal. Try this overnight apple pie oatmeal for a quick and filling breakfast.
- Avoid adding condiments like mayonnaise, salad dressings and sandwich spreads that may contain eggs. Try hummus as a spread for sandwiches and wraps, like this tasty beet hummus.
- When eating out, choose grilled or roasted meat, fish or poultry, or salads with oil and vinegar dressing on the side.
- 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 flaxseed 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)
How can a dietitian help?
can help you plan a healthy, balanced diet that is egg-free. They can also teach you the skills to understand food labels and choose healthy and safe options when eating out. Some dietitians will even walk you through the grocery store to show you how to compare food products. Connect
with a dietitian today!
If your child has an egg allergy, a dietitian
can work with you and your child to find family-friendly meals that are egg-free and that make sure your child doesn’t miss out on important nutrients to help them grow.
You can still eat a nutritious and balanced diet if you have an egg allergy. If you aren’t sure whether 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.
You may also be interested in:
Food allergies and intolerances
Food allergies and babies
Understanding food labels in Canada
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada
Last Update – October 28, 2021