After discovering my son’s milk allergy when he was about 9 months old, we found ourselves identifying more potential allergens he needed to avoid, including eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. Even though he had never eaten these foods, blood and skin prick tests indicated a positive result—the possibility an allergic reaction could occur. His allergist in the United States recommended avoiding these foods until further testing could be done with a new allergist after our move to Switzerland in 2012. Today, I’m happy to report that my son passed his most recent oral food challenge, which means he only has one allergen now: milk—the original inspiration for this blog.
Eating Raw Eggs at the Hospital
On Halloween, my 3-year old son had his fifth food challenge at a Swiss hospital. Scheduling a food challenge on a holiday—although not widely celebrated in Switzerland—probably wasn’t the best idea. It can be hard to get an appointment though, and I was feeling optimistic. After passing a baked egg food challenge in April 2013, my son’s pediatric allergist decided it was time to try a food challenge with raw egg.
The rationale for using raw egg—as opposed to lightly cooked egg that’s been boiled or scrambled—was that if he “passed” the test, he could safely eat eggs in any form. Spaghetti carbonara? Chocolate mousse? Swiss meringues? A food challenge with a negative result for raw egg would give a clear sign that any of these egg-based dishes would be okay for him, as long as they’re made without milk.
Based on our son’s last food challenge for baked milk, when he refused to eat his third dose, I knew we needed a different approach. My thoughtful cousin suggested giving him “prizes” after each of the five doses, so I picked up some little Matchbox cars. I don’t normally bribe my kids (to this extent, anyway!), but for this particular test with raw egg, it seemed especially necessary.
Even though the final dose was mixed with applesauce, the look of that large bowl of runny, yellow egg made me grimace for a moment when my back was turned. The nurse suggested using the oral syringe for this last dose (see the photo above), so it could bypass his taste buds and arrive more quickly to his throat. As he was halfway through that final dose, I reminded him that the last prize was the biggest of all, and it was his favorite color (red). The prizes certainly did the trick, and thankfully he finished the test.
Evaluating the Symptoms: A Contact Reaction
Altogether, my son consumed over 35 grams of raw egg during the test. After the fifth and final dose, he developed a little redness and a few raised hives around his mouth where the raw egg came in contact with his skin, but he did not experience a systemic reaction. As usual, the allergist and nurse were monitoring his heart rate and blood pressure throughout the test, and he had no other symptoms. When the egg on his face was washed away with water, the redness and hives disappeared almost immediately.
Since it was a non-severe and late-phase reaction, and because my son has mild atopic dermatitis (excema), his allergist determined he only experienced a contact reaction to the raw egg, and therefore he had a negative test result. He can now safely eat egg in all forms. I was given the go-ahead to start serving him eggs, and this time they don’t have to be baked for 30 minutes in bread or cake at 200°C.
Back at home, he’s been gobbling up the egg-based version of already familiar foods, such as waffles, pancakes and crêpes. He’s a little more reluctant to try savory eggs, like in one-eyed monsters sprinkled with salt and pepper. With time, I’m sure this will improve.
As with every negative food challenge, I’m thrilled to start cooking and purchasing new foods. Once again, we’re feeling incredibly lucky.
What was the result for your food challenge with raw or lightly cooked egg? I’m always curious to hear how our experience in Switzerland compares to others. Please leave a comment below, if you have the chance.
Next Steps: Baked Milk Challenge in 2015
In January 2015, my son will repeat a food challenge for baked milk. This time, I’ll be making the cake with a recipe provided by his allergist. A successful test would mean he could move on to food challenges with other forms of milk, like baked yogurt and baked cheese. I don’t know what the future will bring, but there’s a good chance he’ll outgrow his milk allergy as well. As usual, I’m cautiously optimistic, and as I’m required to do, I still always carry two adrenaline auto-injectors, an antihistamine and an allergy action plan with us at all times, just in case.
Thanks for your continued support, advice and encouragement! I hope you’ll be getting some good news about food allergies soon too.