Now I come to an allergen that I do know a bit more about: eggs.
Interestingly, some people are only allergic to egg white, some people only egg yolk, and some people both… For Jerry it’s both and his most severe allergy, so here I’ve tracked some of the perils, but also some of the comforts, we’ve found while coping with an egg allergy.
Issue 1: Cocktails
“the particulars referred to in points (b) and (l) of Article 9(1) [which includes the listing of allergens] shall not be mandatory for beverages containing more than 1,2 % by volume of alcohol.” says the EU, article 16.
So this makes alcoholic drinks pretty dangerous all round from an allergen point of view. Nuts, eggs, gluten – throw it all in and don’t tell anyone. Argh. As for egg, cocktails are the most risky: with frothy cocktails apparently all the rage. Most of the large cocktail bars I’ve researched do have an allergen list on their website, but only a few listed the ingredients in the main menu. (Be at One is already one of my favourite cocktail bars, and look at the way they list their menu!)
What’s more, unless a bar takes action to use different shakers, the risk of egg white contamination in a non-egg cocktail is pretty high. Following an A&E trip, I don’t think we’ll go out for cocktails again, but cocktail bars could do a lot to make people with dietary requirements more welcome. Vegans, don’t you also have a problem with the proliferation of egg in drinks?
Issue 2: Gluten-free bread
The prevalence of gluten-related health issues has meant that restaurants are now pretty good at whipping out a gluten-free alternative – from dough balls and rolls to pizza and pasta. And many of them are good. Sadly the majority of gluten-free dough, to have the right consistency, contains egg, which can be super deadly. As far as I know, this is all own-brand supermarket breads and some highly recommended brands (like Genius and Warburtons – even their wraps which may contain egg gave Jerry a reaction).
As regular bread doesn’t contain egg, non-allergenous people often don’t realise. We’ve double checked before when the gluten-free “egg-free” bread was just too soft (and it was too good to be true). There are alternatives (BFree, Pizza Express) but it’s a minefield out there.
Issue 3: Egg lysozyme
Big panic the day we noticed egg listed as an ingredient in hard cheese. Was this new? Jerry had always eaten cheese with no problem. So what was going on? One research paper showed that people with egg allergies didn’t appear to react to Grana Padano (an Italian hard cheese). This is consistent with our personal experience. Of course, all dishes containing hard cheese are now labelled on allergen menus as containing egg. Although technically correct, this adds another layer of obscurity for egg-allergy sufferers, who need to dig further to find out whether a dish contains only egg lysozyme or other egg.
Issue 4: Vaccinations
Flu vaccine is grown on hens’ eggs and is capable of triggering an allergic reaction. Children and adults with an egg allergy are therefore advised to have an alternative, such as an egg-free inactivated flu vaccine.
MMR vaccine is grown on cells from chick embryos, which isn’t the same as hens’ eggs and therefore doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction. Children and adults with a severe egg allergy can safely receive the MMR vaccine.” states the NHS.
As an asthma sufferer, Jerry is routinely offered the flu jab. He’s generally been turned away due to his egg allergy, but finds that clinicians’ approaches vary greatly, with some more risk averse than others.
In 2012, when he needed a Yellow Fever vaccination before travelling abroad, the nurse was reluctant to administer the vaccination. After consultation with the duty doctor, and with an adrenaline auto-injector to hand, they agreed to go ahead. Following the vaccination, he was asked to wait at the practice for 30-40 minutes to mitigate the risk. He suffered a mild localised reaction – a rash and swelling – which calmed down within an hour or two without any further treatment. In th end, a small price to pay for Yellow Fever immunity!
Thanks for reading this part of my series on the top 14 allergens. To find out what I’ve learnt about the other 13 please head to the blog series home.