Can You Develop Egg Allergy Later in Life?

Sudden egg allergy in adults later in life
Is it possible to develop egg allergies later in life?

Is it possible to develop egg allergy later in life?

TL;DR:  Yes.  Egg allergy (or any food allergy) can develop at any point in life, including adulthood.

Although egg allergy is more common in children, about 20% of children with egg allergy symptoms will continue to have egg allergy as an adult.  In addition, new allergies can happen any time in life.  Around 3% of adults have a true IgE-mediated food allergy.

Who should read this article?

If you came to this site for a trivia question or a random Google search, then you can leave now knowing food allergies can happen with any food and at any time.

But…

  1. If you are an adult with egg-related symptoms, then you should read this entire post to see if your symptoms are egg allergy vs egg intolerance.
  2. If you have developed egg allergy later in life and wonder why… this post is for you.
  3. Facebook you are worried about sudden egg allergy in adults, then a quick read will do you well.
  4. positive you have friend/family who developed egg allergy later in life… then share this post with them

My goal in this article is to answer the most common questions to help people with sudden egg allergy in adults.

If you have a baby/child with egg allergy or want to know more details about foods to avoid, I’ll be completing those posts soon but you can always request the topic and I’ll finish them sooner.

First, what is an egg allergy?

An egg allergy is an immune response against a protein found in eggs.

The IgE antibody is the component of the immune system involved in food allergy and is the same antibody that normally protects us against worms and parasites.  If you have seasonal allergies, this antibody also “protects” them against pollen/pet dander.  For food allergy, it “protects” you against food.

In your case, your body thinks it is helping you by attacking eggs.

Thanks a lot, body!

But you’ve eaten eggs in the past without a problem!

I’m willing to bet you’ve been thinking this question since your reaction.

No, I’m not Miss Cleo or some egg allergy Nostradamus.

Just about every person (and most providers) ask this same question whenever I give lectures about food allergies.  So if there is one point I’d like you to know is that food allergy is not due to a new food or an exotic food.  It is DUE to a food you’ve eaten in the past.

Food allergies are NOT due to a new or exotic food, spice, or additive!

Food allergies are an immune response to a food you have eaten in the past.  It doesn’t matter if you have eaten the food a million times before.  After your immune system reacts against a food, you can’t eat that food again!

If you have a sudden egg allergy in adults, then it is because your body, for whatever reason, decided to now is the time to “protect you against eggs.”  Remember, this is an immune response.  So you had to have eaten this in the past to develop an immune response against it.

What is important is that if this is a true IgE mediated egg allergy, then from this point on you cannot eat egg again!

What part of the egg causes egg allergy?

what causes egg allergies in adults
I don’t know what part of the egg forms a heart… but odds are it also causes allergies

This is the second most common question I get if you develop egg allergy later in life… and I understand why:  it’s hard to face you might not get to eat eggs any more!

The answer is not a good one:

  • The egg white contains ovomucoid, ovalbumin and conalbumin as it’s main proteins
  • The egg yolk contains more chicken albumin protein
  • It doesn’t matter because each contains enough of the other to still cause allergy

 

If you have a true egg allergy, then you need to avoid the egg whites AND egg yolks.  Even if a test shows one of these is negative/normal, there is enough cross-proteins that if you developed egg ALLERGY later in life, you can’t eat eggs in any forms.

So your best question is whether you truly have an egg allergy (vs an egg intolerance)!


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Is it an egg allergy or egg intolerance?

Now I’ve answered your (and everyone’s) most common questions, MY most important question as an allergist is whether this is a true egg allergy or an egg intolerance.  When you develop egg allergy later in life, this distinction becomes very important:

An egg allergy symptoms should be 2 or more of these:

  • Hives and/or swelling (in about 90% of people)
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, stomach upset, vomiting, lower GI diarrhea or similar symptoms
  • Fast heart racing, light-headedness, dizziness
  • Passing out

 

An egg intolerance is more likely:

  • Get sick, nausea or vomiting after eating eggs
  • Feeling other symptoms not associated with the above list

I’ve written an entire article along with a quiz to help you determine if you have a true food allergy vs a food intolerance.  I recommend you read that article and that the quiz to help determine what you have.

sudden egg allergy help
Deviled eggs can cause both allergy and intolerance… because they’re gross! Ew.

Is there testing for egg allergy?

It is less common to develop egg allergy later in life than as a child, so confirm any history of sudden egg allergy (in adults AND children) with proper testing.

There are two ways to check for egg allergy:

  1. See an allergist, give them the history, then get a skin test to eggs.
  2. See your primary care provider, give them the history, then get a blood test to eggs

Both tests are equally beneficial in determining if you have developed an egg allergy… depending on whether the test is interpreted correctly.

To help with this, I have added a section to help you with the results:

 


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How to interpret egg allergy results

egg allergy as an adult
Eating “proper” eggs can still cause allergies. Sorry.

If you have egg allergy symptoms (not egg intolerance)

If you have a history that sounds like a true egg allergy and not an intolerance (remember, you can take the food allergy vs food intolerance quiz through this post) then I am looking for any positive value to confirm that history.  What is important is that the value of the blood test OR the skin test means nothing regarding your symptoms.

  • This is a yes or no test at this point:  any positive test confirms an allergy.  Any negative test makes it less likely.
  • If you have a strong history of true egg allergy and a negative blood test, it is important to consider adding a skin test.
  • If you have a strong history of egg allergy symptoms and a negative skin test, it is important to consider adding a blood test.

 

If you have egg intolerance symptoms (and not egg allergy)

If your egg reaction sounds more like egg intolerance, then I am looking for a negative test which would show that this is not a true, life-threatening egg allergy.

  • A history of egg intolerance and a negative blood test or skin test means this is less likely an egg allergy.
  • An egg intolerance history and a positive blood test from your primary care might mean a false positive.  I would consider seeing an allergist to make sure it is a true positive and not a false positive test.

 

What to do if you developed an egg allergy?

If your symptoms sound like a true egg allergy your first step is to get an egg allergy test to confirm the diagnosis.

After that, your plan would be:

  1. Avoid eggs in all forms and start label reading (I’m writing a post dedicated to the foods to avoid with egg allergy, but you can email me and request an advanced copy if you want)
  2. Get an injectable epinephrine autoinjector
  3. Consider repeating testing in a few years
    • In kids, 80% of kids will outgrow egg allergy.
    • We don’t know what happens with sudden egg allergy in adults.  It might be lifelong!
    • Repeat testing every 2-3 years to see if your values decline (which might show you’re losing your egg allergy)

And that’s it.

I wish I could give you a better long term idea of what’s happening but we don’t know the long term numbers if you develop egg allergy later in life.  If your labs decline over time then you might eat egg again.  But if not… it might be a forbidden food for the rest of your life.

Questions?

I understand that developing egg allergy later in life is alarming… particularly if you don’t have other food allergies.  I tried to write this post as a comprehensive guide to help, but I know you will have questions.

So, please, email me with questions or your specific situation/symptoms and I will try to help guide you to the best course of action!

 

Sources:

  1. Food allergy:  A Practice Parameter (2006)
  2. Food allergy:  A Practice Parameter Update (2014)
  3. Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice, Volume 1, 6th edition.

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