Bowl of eggs that can cause sudden egg allergy in adults

Sudden egg allergy in adults: causes and more

Written on November 23, 2022 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Eggs are a relatively cheap and easily accessible food source; they contain many beneficial components that make them very nutritional [1]. Egg proteins are an excellent source of essential amino acids. It’s been reported that egg protein can help prevent malnutrition in children from developing countries. Eggs also contain choline, vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, and other vitamins and nutrients that can help protect against chronic diseases and keep your body healthy.

About egg allergy

Many children and even adults are allergic to eggs, making eggs one of the most common food allergens [1]. Egg allergy is estimated to affect 1% to 2% of children [1,2]. Most children with egg allergies will eventually develop an egg tolerance by 16 years old [2,3].

Because egg allergy generally resolves in young children, it is less prevalent in adults [2]. Hence, egg allergy into adulthood is uncommon [2–5]. Based on a study of self-reported food allergy, the prevalence of reported egg allergic reactions in adults is 0.6% in the United States [6]. While an egg allergy is rare in adults, there have been reported cases of adult-onset egg allergies [4,5].

Egg allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe life-threatening reactions and may vary over time. The most common symptoms are related to the skin and include skin rash, hives, and eczema [3]. Other symptoms may involve the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, including vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, indigestion, wheezing, coughing, rhinitis, nasal congestion, and difficulty breathing. In adult-onset egg allergic reactions, reported symptoms may comprise: eyelid and lip swelling, itching of the throat, eyes, and ears, and redness and watering of the eyes [5].

Causes of adult-onset egg allergy

Egg allergies occur when your body’s immune system becomes sensitive and overreacts to proteins in egg whites and yolk [7]. The allergy occurs because the body mistakes egg proteins as a threat to your body. The egg proteins trigger the body to make antibodies, such as immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is the most common mediated antibody type in egg allergic reactions. IgE binds to the allergen, the egg proteins, in your body and signals your immune system to release chemicals that lead to the presenting signs and symptoms. The response your body has to the egg is an allergic reaction. A food allergy, including an egg allergy, can be a severe and life-threatening condition. It’s also important to know that non-IgE reactions can also occur with egg allergies [7].

In sudden egg allergies in adults, the condition can be linked to a previous history of intolerance to other foods [4]. However, the onset of the allergy could come on suddenly in adults with no history of food intolerance [5]. Stress, alterations in intestinal microbes, inflammatory intestinal disorders, and certain medications have been seen to contribute to triggering egg allergies in adults [4,5].

Diagnosis and management of egg allergy

Testing alone cannot be used to diagnose an egg or food allergy. Your healthcare provider can use your test results, in combination with your symptoms, medical history, family history, and a physical exam, to determine the likelihood of a food allergy. They will be able to provide the right next steps for evaluation and treatment. Food allergy testing can be helpful in identifying which foods may be associated with a food allergy.

The best way to manage an egg allergy is to avoid eating eggs [8]. The majority of eggs consumed in the United States come from chickens [7], whereas in other countries, most eggs consumed may come from other birds such as duck, goose, or quail. There has been reported allergic cross-reactivity between different types of bird eggs consumed [8].

Many foods contain eggs as an ingredient though it may not be apparent. Foods that may have eggs are pasta, salad dressing, mayonnaise, meatloaf, pudding, marshmallow, and cake frosting [8]. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires manufacturers of packaged foods in the United States to include egg or egg products on food labels if it contains eggs. Some vaccines contain egg proteins and should be avoided since they can cause severe reactions if injected into someone with an egg allergy.

Want to learn more about egg and other common food allergens?

You can learn more about your IgE reactivity to some of the most common food allergens with the Everlywell Food Allergy Test. The test measures your body’s IgE response to common food allergens within the top eight categories, including almond, cow’s milk, egg white, egg yolk, peanut, shrimp, soy, tuna, and wheat. The test checks your body’s IgE response to nine foods.

The Everlywell Food Allergy Test may be right for you if you have experienced mild symptoms shortly after eating food, but haven’t been diagnosed with a food allergy, which may include:

  • Tingling or itching of your face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Hives or skin rash, or itchy skin
  • Runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea

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  1. Puglisi MJ, Fernandez ML. The Health Benefits of Egg Protein. Nutrients. 2022 Jul 15;14(14):2904. DOI: 10.3390/nu14142904. URL
  2. NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel, Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, Burks AW, Jones SM, Sampson HA, Wood RA, Plaut M, Cooper SF, Fenton MJ, Arshad SH, Bahna SL, Beck LA, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Camargo CA Jr, Eichenfield L, Furuta GT, Hanifin JM, Jones C, Kraft M, Levy BD, Lieberman P, Luccioli S, McCall KM, Schneider LC, Simon RA, Simons FE, Teach SJ, Yawn BP, Schwaninger JM. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Dec;126(6 Suppl):S1-58. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.007. URL
  3. Savage JH, Matsui EC, Skripak JM, Wood RA. The natural history of egg allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Dec;120(6):1413-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2007.09.040. URL
  4. Cremonte EM, Galdi E, Roncallo C, Boni E, Cremonte LG. Adult onset egg allergy: a case report. Clin Mol Allergy. 2021 Oct 4;19(1):17. DOI: 10.1186/s12948-021-00156-7. URL
  5. Unsel M, Sin AZ, Ardeniz O, Erdem N, Ersoy R, Gulbahar O, Mete N, Kokuludağ A. New onset egg allergy in an adult. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2007;17(1):55-8. PMID: 17323866. URL
  6. Vierk KA, Koehler KM, Fein SB, Street DA. Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in American adults and use of food labels. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Jun;119(6):1504-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2007.03.011. URL
  7. Caubet JC, Wang J. Current understanding of egg allergy. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2011 Apr;58(2):427-43, xi. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcl.2011.02.014. URL
  8. Egg allergy: Causes, symptoms & treatment. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Published April 13, 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022. URL
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