“This cookie’s spicy.”
These were the words of my oldest son five years ago, when he was three. I looked at him in confused consternation. “What? Spicy?”
“It’s hurting my lips!”
Alarmed, I got my son to put the cookie down, although he didn’t want to lose his treat. I looked at his mouth. His lips and the area around them were swollen and inflamed. I peered at his chest and inside of his arms; small, red liquidless hives were forming.
Luckily, I knew he was having an allergic reaction, although I had no idea what he could be reacting to. I gave him a small dose of anti-histamine and stayed with him to keep him from panicking. In less than thirty minutes the swelling and other symptoms had mostly disappeared and I was left with the question, “What’s he allergic to that’s in a cookie?”
My wife and I talked about it at length and had some ideas. We eliminated the chocolate and the nuts. He still said the cookies were spicy.
Then my brilliant wife realized what was going on. “He always says the scrambled eggs are spicy at breakfast. He won’t eat them anymore.”
Two weeks later the allergist confirmed it: Our oldest son was allergic to eggs. She was able to confirm this by using a terrifying-looking tool. It had about seven sharp points, all of them dripping with some kind of substance. She poked my son’s back with this thing five times! He hated it, of course, and it took him a while to calm down from what seemed like a medieval torture.
At the end of the session, we were given a prescription for an Epi-Pen and sent on our way with the charge to avoid eggs in my son’s food.
So if you want to avoid the hand-held iron maiden, it might be better for you to determine on your own whether your child is allergic to eggs. Luckily, it is usually only children who are allergic to eggs; this is a very rare allergy in adults. To determine if your child has an egg allergy, you want to know the symptoms to look for and then you want to try a food challenge.
Symptoms and Dealing with Them
We don’t need to go into the science of these reactions too much, but understanding the biology of allergic reactions can be helpful. The thing with allergies is that when we have them, our immune system is having a little glitch wherein it identifies substances that are perfectly okay as dangerous to our system. Thus, it activates the formation of immune-globulins. These manifest themselves with what is called a histamine reaction.
So when you see hives showing up on your kid, or an allergic swelling, or even when breathing becomes difficult due to the reaction, these are a histamine reaction. Thus, the reaction can usually be slowed and reversed by taking an anti-histamine.
Benadryl, Claritin, and others are fairly tame anti-histamines that will usually take care of allergic reactions. When the allergy is strong, it may be necessary to carry around an epinephrine pen. This is the size and shape of a pen, but when you go to write on your body with it, you jab it into your thigh (or some other thick part of your body) and allow the concentrated anti-histamine to flow into your body. For my mother, her Epi-Pens were the only thing standing between her and death if a bee stung her.
Symptoms too look for if you want to determine if your child has an egg allergy happen in three places: the skin, the gastrointestinal system and the respiratory system.
*Look for hives, which are red, raised blotches on the skin. These have no pus, so they are also dry looking, despite their sometimes vibrant color.
*Swelling can occur, like around my son’s mouth.
*Inflammation often goes along with the swelling, and is obvious because it looks red.
*Eczema is another symptom. This is an itchy, ashy patch of skin that simply won’t go away with your basic lotions. Not all eczema is an allergic reaction, so just be aware of what’s going on with your child’s body.
The gastrointestinal system:
*Unfortunately, diarrhea is a common sign of allergic reaction in the stomach and intestines.
*Vomiting is another unfortunate and messy sign of a food allergy. Again, not all vomiting is a sign of an allergic reaction, so be aware of what’s going on with your child.
*Stomach cramps can lay your child low. The pain is all internal and you must simply trust them that it is as severe as they say.
The respiratory system:
*Allergic reactions to eggs (and other substances) will often manifest themselves in the respiratory system in the lamest of places: your eyes. That’s right, your tear ducts are connected to your sinuses, which are a part of your respiratory system. So watch for itchy, red and watery eyes.
*Sneezing and runny nose can be another symptom of an allergic reaction to food.
*Food allergies can even manifest themselves with an asthma attack or some other difficulty breathing.
So if you think your child is allergic to eggs, eliminate them from his diet for a week. Then add them back to see what happens. This is called a food challenge. If there is a reaction, just eliminate eggs from the diet and check ingredients labels of the food you buy. You might be surprised at how many foods have some egg protein in them.
Now that you are scared, let’s take a second to sit back and think about this. Food allergies in children only really affect about 1% of the population. What is more, many of the food allergies that occur in children are usually outgrown, often by the age of five.
My son, however, had a different resolution to his egg allergy. After the incredibly cruel and invasive procedure conducted by the allergist, we decided to go to a holistic health clinic. We had a close family member go to this clinic and actually get cured of an allergy to pollen, so we were hopeful. After several months of going to this clinic, and after beginning to use farm fresh eggs from naturally healthy chickens, my son’s allergy was gone. Imagine his pleasure at eating cookies again!