How to Deal With Egg Allergies in College

Avoid allergic reactions to eggs while eating in the college cafeteria.

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Eggs. No breakfast buffet would seem complete without them. But for the college student who is allergic to eggs, they also represent a food ingredient that can lead to a severe reaction, including skin reactions and anaphylaxis.

The good news is that the majority of egg allergies are outgrown over time as a child grows into an adult. However, there are still many students with egg allergies who are preparing to go to college, and it is important he or she devises a plan to avoid risk of contamination.

"When reading food labels, keep an eye out for ingredients like albumin and vitellin, which are egg sources."

An allergy is "a life-threatening and an almost always immediate episode after eating that may include rashes, respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea," said Dr. Allen Meadows, fellow and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"It is caused by a very specific part of the immune system. Allergy tests detect life-threatening food allergy. True food allergy is 100 percent reproducible, meaning that each and every time an offending agent is ingested, it will result in an adverse event which could be very dangerous."

Be Cautious of Egg in the Dining Hall and Snack Products

Egg ingredients can easily hide in commercial pastas, Hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, and even specialty coffee drinks, an all-too-common popular beverage of choice amongst college students.

"When reading food labels, keep an eye out for ingredients like albumin and vitellin, which are egg sources, and be aware that most baked goods, custards, puddings, noodles, and pastas contain egg," said Judi and Shari Zucker authors of The Ultimate Allergy-Free Snack Cookbook. "Egg wash is used to add shine to pretzels, breads, and other baked goods, while eggs and egg derivatives may be contained in the foamy toppings of cappuccinos and other coffee drinks."

Students who are considering receiving a flu shot for the first time in order to prepare for the possibility of increased exposure to sickness in a college environment should also be aware that influenza vaccines are grown on egg embryos and may contain a small amount of egg protein. This is something that should be discussed with a doctor in order to asses if this a measure a student with egg allergies should avoid.

As with most allergies and intolerances, Judi and Shari Zucker point out that the most common source of exposure to egg allergens is when cross-contamination occurs.

"It is crucial to use separate utensils and equipment when preparing allergen-free foods," Judi Zucker said. "It is also important to verify that the foods are prepared or packaged in a facility in which cross-contamination does not occur. In school cafeterias and buffet-style restaurants, signs should be placed next to foods that may be affected by cross-contamination as a warning."

Keep Your Own Food Handy

The Zucker sisters also recommend that a student with egg allergies keep a small refrigerator in his or her dorm room, or a small supply of "safe" foods in an apartment refrigerator or pantry.

"Whether living on campus or off, students with food allergies should also check out local markets and restaurants to discover which places offer food they can eat," they said. "Places like Trader Joe's and other specialty grocery stores, along with a growing number of supermarkets offer a wide variety of allergen-free foods."

Students with should also utilize tech-savvy applications and Websites, like AllergyEats and CanIEatHere.com, to assess a restaurant's ability to serve them a safe meal before sitting down to dinner with friends.

Quick Tips

  • Read labels carefully to check for hidden egg allergens, like albumin and vitellin.
  • Check with you allergist before receiving a flu shot, which contains egg.
  • Research specialty grocery stores that are close to campus and utilize allergy-friendly Websites that help to make dining egg-free easier.

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