"Children with egg allergy are at risk for severe reactions if they are accidentally exposed to egg-containing foods," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. "Currently, the only way to prevent these reactions from occurring is for these children to avoid foods that contain eggs."
The study is one of several trials of oral immunotherapy -- in which a person with food allergy consumes gradually increasing amounts of the allergenic food as a way to treat the allergy. Oral immunotherapy carries significant risk for allergic reaction so studies are conducted under the guidance of trained clinicians.
Symptoms of allergic reactions can range from mild -- hives, redness and itchiness of the skin -- to severe symptoms including swelling of the back of the throat, trouble breathing, drop in blood pressure and faintness or dizziness.
The study involved 55 children and adolescents ages 5-18, who had an egg allergy. Participants were randomly assigned either to the treatment group, in which 40 participants received egg oral immunotherapy, or the control group. Both groups were followed for 24 months.
Participants were given either a daily dose of egg white powder or cornstarch powder at home, with the amount given increased gradually.
By the end of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, many of the children were able to eat more than a whole egg without having a reaction.