Allergy to Wheat and Other Cereal Grains

Allergic to Cereal Grains

Wheat is one of the more common food allergies in children. The reaction can be dangerous, and avoidance is the only recommended treatment for wheat allergy.

Positive food allergy tests do not always mean that a person is allergic to the food that's being tested—because you can have cross-sensitivity during a test even if you aren't allergic.

Close-up of wooden spoon filled with wheat bran
pogrebkov / istockphoto

Symptoms and Diagnosis

A person with a wheat allergy is likely to develop symptoms within minutes to hours after ingesting food that contains wheat. Symptoms of wheat allergy include itching of the mouth or throat, lip or throat swelling, hives or itchy skin, nasal congestion, headache, or difficulty breathing.

Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction) can also occur.

Diagnosis can be tricky. It is common for children with wheat allergy to have positive allergy tests to other cereal grains, such as rye, barley, oat, and corn. It is also common for people with allergies to grass pollen to have positive allergy tests to these foods as well, because these cereal grains belong to the grass family.

However, only about 20% of people with an allergy to one cereal grain have allergies to other cereal grains, and only 20% of people with grass pollen allergy have a true food allergy to any of the cereal grains.

If you have had a positive allergy test to any type of food, you should avoid eating that food until you see an allergist. Food allergies can be potentially dangerous, and often an oral food challenge needs to be performed under close medical supervision to ultimately determine whether you will have a clinical reaction.

Sensitivity occurs when you make allergic antibodies to the food; allergy is the clinical reaction that occurs if the food is eaten. Many atopic people may make allergic antibodies to a number of different foods, but don't have a harmful clinical reaction to eating these foods.

Treatment

If you've had a history of anaphylaxis reaction to wheat, your doctor will prescribe a medication called "Epinephrine autoinjector" that you'll need to have with you at all times. You can learn to inject this medication to avoid a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Wheat allergy is common and can be a hidden ingredient in many foods. Read food labels carefully if you are severely allergic to wheat or other foods.

How to Follow a Wheat-Free Diet

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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