Egg Allergy Minimized by Gradually Increasing the Amount of Intake

Egg Allergy Minimized by Gradually Increasing the Amount of Intake

Eggs in themselves aren't bad, but when you're allergic to them, your body thinks they are. When a person is allergic to eggs, the body's immune system overreacts to proteins in the egg. Every time something made with eggs enters the digestive system of a person with an egg allergy, the body thinks that these proteins are harmful invaders.Babies sometimes will have an allergic reaction to eggs. If that happens, they can't eat eggs for a while. But the good news is that most kids outgrow this allergy by age 5 and can eat eggs with no problem after that.

This is little consolation if you've had a bad experience with a particular food and fear a recurrence. But it is an important distinction, because a true food allergy — also called a hypersensitivity — can cause serious problems and even death.

The immune system responds by creating specific antibodies to that food, which are designed to fight off the “invader.” These antibodies — called immunoglobulin E (IgE) — trigger the release of certain chemicals into the body, one of which is histamine.It occurs mainly, but not exclusively, in children. It is usually treated with an exclusion diet and vigilant avoidance of foods that may be contaminated with egg. The most severe food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis and is an emergency situation requiring immediate attention.

Most people who are allergic react to the proteins in egg whites, but some can't tolerate proteins in the yolk. Egg allergy usually first appears when kids are very young, and most kids outgrow it by the time they're 5 years old but some people remain allergic for a lifetime.

With a food challenge, the person is told to not eat eggs or anything made with egg proteins for a certain period of time — usually a few weeks. After that, the person will eat foods that contain eggs only under close supervision from a doctor. If symptoms come back after eating egg products, it's a pretty sure bet the person has an egg allergy.

Recently,U.S. researchers say,children who were allergic to eggs were able to overcome the allergy by gradually increasing the amount of egg they ate.

"Participants who took a daily dose of egg product over the two-year study period were able to build up their bodies' resistance to the point where most of them could eat two scrambled eggs without a reaction," researcher Dr. A. Wesley Burks, chief of the division of allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

The small pilot study involved seven youngsters, aged 1 to 7. The children consumed small daily doses of powdered egg mixed with food. At the start of the study, the doses were the equivalent of less than one-thousandth of an egg. That was gradually increased to the equivalent of one-tenth of an egg, which was maintained as a "maintenance dose" for the remainder of the study.

The study, published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is expected to be in the January print edition of the journal.

Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies among children in the United States. While most children outgrow the allergy by age 5, some have the allergy for the rest of their lives.

This study was the first in a series of food allergy desensitization studies being conducted by researchers at Duke and the University of Arkansas. One of the studies is examining whether the desensitization method is effective in children with peanut allergies.

Notify key people that your child has a food allergy. Talk with child care providers, school personnel, parents of your child's friends, and other adults who regularly interact with your child. Emphasize that an allergic reaction can be life-threatening and requires immediate action. Make sure that your child also knows to ask for help right away if he or she reacts to food.


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