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What to know about chicken allergies

What to know about chicken allergies

People with a chicken allergy may have an allergic reaction after eating chicken meat, or, sometimes, after their skin comes into contact with chicken feathers.

While fish and seafood are often the primary sources of food allergies, allergies to other types of meat are less common.

Most people with an allergy to chicken will notice mild symptoms and discomfort after eating or touching it. However, some people may develop severe reactions that require medical attention.

In this article, we look at the symptoms and causes of chicken allergies, their link to egg allergies, and how to treat and manage an allergy to chicken.

Chicken allergies and intolerances

Free range chickens
Chicken eggs, feathers, or meat may cause an allergic reaction.

People can have an allergy or intolerance to chicken meat or other chicken products, including feathers or eggs.

An allergy usually involves more generalized symptoms, such as swelling and rashes, while an intolerance involves digestive issues, such as diarrhea.

Another uncommon condition, known as bird-egg syndrome, occurs when a person eats undercooked or raw egg yolks or inhales feathers or particles from a chicken.

Are chicken allergies common?

Allergic reactions to chicken meat are rare. They can affect both adults and children. They are most often seen in adolescents, though may begin around preschool age.

An allergy to chicken meat may occur as a primary allergy (a true allergy), or as a secondary allergy caused by cross-reactivity with another allergy, such as an allergy to eggs, though this is rare.

Symptoms of a chicken allergy

Woman coughing while working from home on laptop
Coughing is a common symptom of a chicken allergy.

A chicken allergy can cause symptoms that range in severity. Since it is a rare condition, it is difficult to say what the most common reactions are.

However, people with chicken meat allergies or intolerance may experience the following symptoms after eating or coming into contact with chicken meat:

  • coughing or wheezing
  • red, irritated skin
  • hives
  • an inflamed or swollen throat
  • swollen tongue or lips
  • sneezing
  • nausea or vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • a sore throat
  • swollen, watery eyes

In more severe cases, people may experience a dangerous allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • trouble breathing
  • heart palpitations
  • a racing heart
  • drop in blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness
  • wheezing

If a person experiences any of the above symptoms after eating cooked chicken or handling raw chicken, they should get medical attention immediately as anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition.

Can you be allergic to chicken but not eggs?

If a person has a primary allergy to chicken meat, it does not mean they will have an allergy to chicken eggs. In other cases, people may develop a secondary sensitivity to chicken meat as a result of other allergies, such as in bird-egg syndrome.

There are only a few reports of people with a chicken egg allergy and also a chicken meat allergy.

Doctors do not consider people with bird-egg syndrome to have a primary or true chicken meat allergy. These people experience an allergic reaction to a specific protein found in both egg yolks and chickens.

Managing chicken allergies

People with a chicken meat allergy should avoid any contact with raw or cooked chicken meat and unless told otherwise by their doctor, chicken products.

Although not always the case, some people may also need to avoid chicken eggs, especially raw or undercooked eggs. These are present in many products, such as raw cookie dough or batter. Always check the label.

In cases of accidental exposure, people can try over-the-counter antihistamines. Antihistamines can help stop the immune system from overreacting to the chicken.

Anyone experiencing a severe reaction should get medical attention immediately, and use an injectable epinephrine shot, often known by the brand name EpiPen.

Risk factors

Line of pillows
A person with a chicken meat allergy may want to avoid pillows that contain feathers.

A person with a chicken meat allergy may be allergic to other related substances.

People with chicken meat allergies may need to avoid eating some or all of the following:

  • chicken broth
  • other chicken products
  • geese
  • turkey
  • fish and shrimp
  • duck
  • partridge
  • pheasant
  • eggs

They may also need to avoid exposure to chicken feathers and other poultry, including domestic birds.

Some people may choose to avoid certain domestic products, such as feathered-filled pillows.

Some vaccinations, such as yellow fever, contain chicken protein. This can cause an allergic reaction if injected.

People with any food allergy should talk with their doctor about which specific things they need to avoid.

When to see a doctor

People should see their doctor if they experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction up to a couple of hours after eating chicken meat.

Even if the reaction is mild, a doctor can help a person figure out the cause of their symptoms, treat reactions, and plan ways to avoid future contact with allergens.

If a person experiences any of the signs of anaphylaxis, they will require immediate medical attention. After recovering, the person should make a follow-up appointment with their doctor. When a person experiences a severe reaction for the first time, a doctor will prescribe an EpiPen or similar injector.

Outlook

A person can develop a chicken allergy at any age. However, it is not a very common allergy. Allergies to eggs, milk, and other foods are much more widespread.

Many people can manage their allergy by avoiding chicken and other related products. If a person has a severe allergy, they will need immediate emergency medical help. Always schedule a follow-up visit with a primary care doctor.

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