What causes egg allergies in adults

In children, the foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction are:

  1. milk – if a kid has an allergy to cows’ milk, they’re probably allergic to every types of milk, as well as infants’ and follow-on formula
  2. soya
  3. eggs
  4. wheat
  5. peanuts

In adults, the foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction are:

  1. tree nuts – such as walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and pistachios
  2. fish
  3. peanuts
  4. shellfish – such as crab, lobster and prawns

However, any type of food can potentially cause an allergy.

Some people own allergic reactions to:

  1. mustard
  2. sesame seeds
  3. celery or celeriac – this can sometimes cause anaphylactic shock
  4. fruit and vegetables – these generally only cause symptoms affecting the mouth, lips and throat (oral allergy syndrome)
  5. pine nuts (a type of seed)
  6. gluten – a type of protein found in cereals
  7. meat – some people are allergic to just one type of meat, while others are allergic to a range of meats; a common symptom is skin irritation


The immune system

The immune system protects the body by producing specialised proteins called antibodies.

What causes egg allergies in adults

Antibodies identify potential threats to your body, such as bacteria and viruses. They signal your immune system to release chemicals to kill the threat and prevent the spread of infection.

In the most common type of food allergy, an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) mistakenly targets a certain protein found in food as a threat.

What causes egg allergies in adults

IgE can cause several chemicals to be released, the most significant being histamine.

Histamine

Histamine causes most of the typical symptoms that happen during an allergic reaction. For example, histamine:

  1. causes little blood vessels to expand and the surrounding skin to become red and swell up
  2. affects nerves in the skin, causing itchiness
  3. increases the quantity of mucus produced in your nose lining, which causes itching and a burning sensation

In most food allergies, the release of histamine is limited to certain parts of the body, such as your mouth, throat or skin.

In anaphylaxis, the immune system goes into overdrive and releases large amounts of histamine and numerous other chemicals into your blood.

This causes the wide range of symptoms associated with anaphylaxis.


Non-IgE-mediated food allergy

There’s another type of food allergy known as a non-IgE-mediated food allergy, caused by diverse cells in the immune system.

What causes egg allergies in adults

This is much harder to diagnose as there’s no test to accurately confirm non-IgE-mediated food allergy.

This type of reaction is largely confined to the skin and digestive system, causing symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion and eczema.

In babies, a non-IgE-mediated food allergy can also cause diarrhoea and reflux, where stomach acid leaks up into the throat.


Who’s at risk?

Exactly what causes the immune system to error harmless proteins as a threat is unclear but some things are thought to increase your risk of a food allergy.

Family history

If you own a parent, brother or sister with an allergic condition – such as asthma, eczema or a food allergy – you own a slightly higher risk of developing a food allergy.

However, you may not develop the same food allergy as your family members.

Other allergic conditions

Children who have atopic dermatitis (eczema) in early life are more likely to develop a food allergy.


The rise in food allergy cases

The number of people with food allergies has risen sharply over the past few decades and, although the reason is unclear, other allergic conditions such as atopic dermatitis own also increased.

One theory behind the rise is that a typical child’s diet has changed considerably over the final 30 to 40 years.

Another theory is that children are increasingly growing up in «germ-free» environments.

This means their immune systems may not get sufficient early exposure to the germs needed to develop properly.

What causes egg allergies in adults

This is known as the hygiene hypothesis.


Food additives

It’s rare for someone to have an allergic reaction to food additives. However, certain additives may cause a flare-up of symptoms in people with pre-existing conditions.

Sulphites

Sulphur dioxide (E220) and other sulphites (from numbers E221 to E228) are used as preservatives in a wide range of foods, especially soft drinks, sausages, burgers, and dried fruits and vegetables.

Sulphur dioxide is produced naturally when wine and beer are made, and is sometimes added to wine.

What causes egg allergies in adults

Anyone who has asthma or allergic rhinitis may react to inhaling sulphur dioxide.

A few people with asthma own had an attack after drinking acidic drinks containing sulphites, but this isn’t thought to be extremely common.

Food labelling rules require pre-packed food sold in the UK, and the relax of the European Union, to show clearly on the label if it contains sulphur dioxide or sulphites at levels above 10mg per kg or per litre.

Benzoates

Benzoic acid (E210) and other benzoates (E211 to E215, E218 and E219) are used as food preservatives to prevent yeasts and moulds growing, most commonly in soft drinks.

What causes egg allergies in adults

They happen naturally in fruit and honey.

Benzoates could make the symptoms of asthma and eczema worse in children who already own these conditions.

Sheet final reviewed: 15 April 2019
Next review due: 15 April 2022

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 little amounts of egg that are cooked or baked (in a cake, for example).

What causes egg allergies in adults

But it’s safer to avoid every foods that contain egg when buying or preparing food for any kid with a diagnosed egg allergy.


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