Wheat is one of the eight most common allergy-causing foods. While wheat allergy most often affects children, it can also occur in adults. Allergic reactions usually occur in susceptible individuals a few minutes to a few hours after they've consumed wheat.
Signs and symptoms of wheat allergy range from mild to severe and can include skin reactions, congestion and digestive issues. Rarely, wheat allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.
If you or your child has a reaction to wheat, tell your doctor about it, no matter how mild the reaction may have been. Tests can help confirm a wheat allergy, so you can take steps to avoid future and potentially worse reactions.
Signs and symptoms of wheat allergy can include:
- Swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth or throat
- Hives or skin irritation
- Nasal congestion
- Airway inflammation
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramps, nausea and vomiting
Allergy symptoms differ from person to person and generally occur a few minutes to a few hours after wheat's been ingested. In some people, allergic reactions occur:
- When exercising after eating wheat
- From inhaled flour in the workplace (sometimes called bakers' asthma)
Some people have a severe reaction to wheat called anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency and requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot and a trip to the emergency room. Signs and symptoms start within seconds to two hours after eating wheat and can include:
- Constriction of airways, including a swollen throat or a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
What causes it?
All food allergies are caused by an immune system malfunction. Your immune system identifies certain wheat proteins as harmful, triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with these proteins, these IgE antibodies recognize them and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals.
Histamine and other body chemicals cause a range of allergy signs and symptoms. Histamine is partly responsible for most allergic responses, including runny nose, itchy eyes, dry throat, rashes, hives, nausea, diarrhea, labored breathing and anaphylactic shock.