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Wheat Allergy

Wheat Allergies – Do you have one? According to the Mayo Clinic, a wheat allergy is an abnormal immune system reaction to one or more proteins found in wheat. And, an allergy to wheat is one of the more common food allergies in children.

If you or your child has a wheat allergy, the immune system has developed a specific antibody — a disease-fighting agent — to a wheat protein.

Wheat allergy may result in a wide range of symptoms, including hives, difficulty breathing and nausea. Wheat allergy can also cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. The primary treatment for a wheat allergy is to avoid wheat in all forms. Depending on the severity of the reaction, you also may have to consider managing reactions with medication.

A wheat allergy may not be a life-long disorder. Whether or not you outgrow it may depend, in part, on when the allergy first appears. Wheat allergy in children usually develops during infancy or early toddler years. Most children with wheat allergy have other food allergies. Children usually outgrow wheat allergy between ages 3 and 5. Wheat allergy isn't as common in adolescents and adults.

An allergic reaction to wheat is different from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an immune system reaction that causes inflammation in the small intestines when a person eats any food containing gluten, one type of protein found in wheat. Celiac disease, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is considered food sensitivity rather than a food allergy. Celiac disease is an immune system reaction to gluten that causes inflammation in the small intestines. This condition can result in poor absorption of essential nutrients from your food. A person may have both wheat allergy and celiac disease.

 If or someone that you know has a wheat allergy, you will likely experience symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours after eating something containing wheat. Wheat allergy symptoms include:

  • Swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth or throat
  • Hives, itchy rash or swelling of the skin
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis

For some, an allergic reaction to wheat may cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In addition to the other symptoms of wheat allergy, anaphylaxis may cause:
  • Swelling or tightness of the throat
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pale, blue skin color
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Weak pulse
When to see a doctor

Anaphylaxis is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate care. People who already know they can have an anaphylactic reaction to wheat or another allergy-causing substance should carry two injectable doses of a drug called epinephrine. The second dose is a backup in case emergency services aren't immediately available.

If someone has signs of anaphylaxis, call 911 or your local emergency number. Emergency care is essential even if the person has just used an epinephrine shot. If you suspect that you or your child is allergic to wheat or another food, see your doctor. A number of conditions can cause signs or symptoms associated with wheat allergy. So, an accurate diagnosis is important.

Sources of wheat proteins

Foods that may include wheat proteins include:

  • Breads
  • Cakes and muffins
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Pasta 
  • Couscous
  • Crackers
  • Beer
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Soy sauce
  • Condiments, such as ketchup
  • Meat, crab or shrimp substitutes
  • Coffee substitutes
  • Meat products, such as hotdogs
  • Dairy products, such as ice cream
  • Natural flavorings
  • Gelatinized starch
  • Modified food starch
  • Vegetable gum
If you have a wheat allergy, you may also be allergic to other grains with similar proteins. These related grains include:
  • Barley
  • Oat
  • Rye
Foods Commonly Containing Wheat

Here is the list of some of the foods to watch out for:
  • Snacks - crackers, chips, cereals, snack mixes, pretzels
  • Breads - bread, bagels, muffins, rolls, pastries, donuts, pancakes, waffles
  • Desserts - cakes, cookies, baking mixes, pies, other baked goods
  • Soups - most soups including broths
  • Pastas - noodles, packaged dinners containing pasta
  • Condiments - soy sauce, Worchester sauce, salad dressings, barbeque sauces, marinades, glazes, some vinegars
  • Beverages - Beer (including non-alcoholic), root beer, drink mixes such as instant breakfast
  • Meats - frozen meats (some are packaged with broth), lunch meats, hot dogs
  • Gravies and Sauces - most likely thickened with wheat flour
  • Misc. - flour tortillas, stuffing
  • Tabbouleh, Tabouleh or Tabouli - a salad made with bulgur
  • Pilafs
If you discover that you do have a wheat allergy, then consider cooking with almond flour. It's nutritious and can be purchased in bulk for all your cooking needs.

Here are some additional links that will also assist you in learning more about wheat allergies:

Eating with food allergies
The gluten free mall

Mayo Clinic