The research has the potential to help thousands of families who have to monitor exposure to eggs, Dr. Doran says. “The effect of this type of allergy on the whole family is immense,” says Dr. Doran, himself the parent of an allergic child. “In many cases all food has to be prepared in the home as you can’t guarantee that food purchased outside the home won’t have traces of egg white…We recently did a long-haul flight with the family and had to prepare all meals to take on the plane,” he recounts.
And for new parents, the research will take away the anxiety that comes with serving eggs to their infants for the first time, says Dr. Suphioglu. “There’s evidence that new parents are exposing their infants to egg products for the first time in the car parks of major children’s hospitals just so they are close to medical attention in case their child reacts adversely,” he claims.
The three-year research project has only just begun, but experts expect allergy-free eggs to be created and available in supermarket shelves within five to 10 years.
If things go well, the research may also lead to the production of allergy-free flu vaccines. Some vaccines contain traces of egg and currently, people who are allergic to egg whites, are prevented from having a standard flu vaccine.
Previous researchers have cloned the allergen genes. In other studies, like one conducted by German and Swiss chemists in 2008, ways to treat eggs to make them safe for allergy-sufferers to consume were explored. This project by the Australian researchers is the first to attempt to render the proteins harmless.
More on egg allergies
Egg allergies usually first appear when kids are very young, and many children do outgrow these allergies by the time they’re five years old.
Most people who are allergic to eggs react to the proteins in egg whites, but there are some who can’t also tolerate even the proteins in the yolk.
For most people who have egg allergies, reactions usually happen within minutes to hours after eating them.
Symptoms for egg allergy reactions
Mild egg allergy reactions include:
• Hives (especially over the neck and face)
• Nasal congestion
• Watery, red eyes
Moderate or severe egg allergy reactions include:
• Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
• Flushing or redness of the face
• Chest discomfort or tightness
• Difficulty breathing
• Difficulty swallowing
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Fear or feeling of apprehension or anxiety
• Nausea and vomiting
• Cramps or pain in the abdomen
First aid for egg allergy reactions
For a mild to moderate reaction:
• Reassure the person having the reaction, since anxiety can worsen symptoms.
• Apply cool compresses and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream on itchy rashes.
• Go see a doctor who may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamines.
• Watch the person for signs of increasing distress.
For a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis):
• Check the person’s airway, breathing, and circulation (the ABC’s of Basic Life Support). A warning sign of dangerous throat swelling is a very hoarse or whispered voice, or coarse sounds when the person is breathing in air. If necessary, begin rescue breathing and CPR.
• Call 911.
• Calm and reassure the person.
• If the person has emergency allergy medication on hand, help the person take or inject the medication. Avoid oral medication if the person is having difficulty breathing.
• Take steps to prevent shock. Let the person lie flat, raise his or her feet about 12 inches, and cover him or her with a coat or blanket. Do NOT place the person in this position if a head, neck, back, or leg injury is suspected or if it causes discomfort.
• Assume that any allergy shots the person has already received will provide complete protection.
• Place a pillow under the person’s head if he or she is having trouble breathing. This can block the airways.
• Give the person anything by mouth if he or she is having trouble breathing.
Egg Allergy: Symptoms, First Aid Treatment, and Allergy-Free Eggs. Posted 19 March 2012.