Wheat allergy: Diagnosis, diet, symptoms, and causes

People with a wheat allergy have an abnormal immune system response to at least one of the proteins that exist in wheat.

Exposure to wheat can lead to breathing difficulties, nausea, hives, bloated stomach, and an inability to focus. In some people, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response, can occur.

Some people have an allergic reaction when they inhale wheat flour, while in others, eat it triggers symptoms. An allergic reaction can occur within minutes or sometimes hours of either consuming or inhaling wheat.

A wheat allergy is one of the most common childhood food allergies, but it may affect adults as well. The person with a wheat allergy has developed a specific antibody to a wheat protein, and sometimes more than one.

Wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease.

Fast facts about wheat allergy

An allergy happens when a person’s immune system has an unusual reaction to a particular substance.

Wheat contains several chemicals, each of which can cause a reaction in some people.

The best way to avoid a reaction is not to consume foods that contain wheat.

These range from baked goods to flavorings. It is best to check the contents of any prepared food before eating it.

A mild allergy may lead to nasal congestion and discomfort, but a severe reaction includes potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Diagnosis

[various breads]
A wheat allergy is a very common childhood allergy that may also affect adults.

A number of tests can reveal a wheat allergy.

Food diary: To identify the cause of the allergy, a health professional may ask the individual to keep a food diary. This will include notes of everything consumed and when, plus detailed notes on symptoms.

Pinpointing the source: Next, the person will eliminate all wheat products from the diet. After a few days, wheat will be reintroduced at intervals. With the help of the food diary, this can help identify which foods cause problems. These foods can be replaced with others that do not cause a reaction.

This must be done with a qualified health professional.

Food challenge testing: This is normally done in a hospital or specialized allergy clinic. The patient eats capsules which contain suspected allergens. They start with small doses, gradually increasing over a period of hours or days, while the individual is monitored for signs and symptoms.

Skin-prick test: Drops of diluted foods are placed on the patient’s arm or back. The skin is then pierced through the drop, introducing the food into the system. If there is itching, redness or swelling, the indication is most likely a positive reaction. However, the skin prick test is not definitive, so it is not used alone for diagnosis.

Blood test: This can detect antibodies for specific foods, which indicates the likelihood of an allergy to those foods.

[Baby with face rash]
Eczema is one of the more common symptoms of wheat allergy.

allergic rhinitis, or nasal congestion

asthma

atopic dermatitis, or eczema

urticaria, or hives, an itchy rash with possible swelling of the skin

nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting

irritation and possible swelling of the mouth, throat, or both

watery, itchy eyes

bloated stomach

Anaphylaxis may occur, leading to:

swelling and tightness in the throat and difficulty swallowing

tightness and pain in the chest and difficulty breathing

pale or bluish skin, weak pulse and a serious, possibly life-threatening, drop in blood pressure

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

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