Wheat was one of the first crops cultivated by humans and it is still ubiquitous in our culture. In fact, bread is a staple of most Western diets. As such, you if have a wheat allergy, your condition may seem overwhelming. But don’t lose hope! By consulting with the allergy physicians at Accent Allergy in Gainesville, FL, you’ll receive the knowledge, testing, treatment and support you need to live a healthy life and effectively manage your wheat allergy.
Symptoms of wheat allergy
The most commonly seen wheat allergy symptoms are gastrointestinal difficulties, like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Skin symptoms such as hives, rashes and itching may also appear. Nasal problems like a runny nose and sneezing also occur.
More severe signs of an allergic reaction to wheat include shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties as well as facial and throat swelling. These symptoms could be an indication of a severe, acute reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and always requires immediate medical attention. If you have a severe allergy to wheat or any other substance, you should always carry an epinephrine injection device and know how to use it.
Causes of wheat allergy
These days, when health-conscious people think of wheat and wheat products like bread, they probably think of carbohydrates. While it’s certainly true that wheat-rich foods contain carbs, wheat also has several proteins. A wheat allergy is when your body’s immune system has an abnormal reaction to these proteins. In essence, your body is trying to fight off a threat that isn’t there.
Is Gluten Allergy the Same as Wheat Allergy?
No. In fact, gluten allergy is not a true allergy but rather a sensitivity. It’s easy to confuse the two, though, since gluten sensitivity often manifests with similar symptoms as a wheat sensitivity or allergy. These symptoms include gastrointestinal upset and pain in the stomach and bowels.
A true wheat allergy is caused by the immune system’s immunoglobulin E not responding to wheat proteins appropriately. This adverse response usually only takes seconds to a few minutes to appear after exposure to wheat products. Gluten intolerance symptoms often appear hours after ingesting gluten, once it enters the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Risk factors of wheat allergy
- Age – Wheat allergy disproportionately affects the very young. In fact, most wheat-allergic children have outgrown their allergy by the age of three. Of course, grownups can still be allergic to wheat, but wheat allergy symptoms in adults are usually milder than in kids.
- Other Grain Allergies – While it’s certainly possible to have an allergy solely to wheat, around 20 percent of wheat-allergic people are also allergic to other grains, like rye, barley or oats.
- Family History – Having a parent who has a food allergy increases your risk of being allergic to wheat. There is also evidence to suggest that a parental history of asthma also increases the chance of having a wheat allergy.
- Personal Medical History – If you have other allergic type diseases, like eczema or asthma, you have a greater risk of also having a wheat allergy. So if your child is asthmatic or suffers from eczema, it’s certainly worth a visit to an allergy specialist to check for wheat and other food allergies.
Complications of wheat allergy
Other than the accompanying conditions mentioned above, the most common complication of a wheat allergy is unexpected exposure. Many people don’t realize that wheat and wheat flour are present in a huge variety of foods and are by no means limited to bread products. Educating yourself and getting expert advice from the physicians at Accent Allergy are effective ways to prevent accidental exposures.
Of course, anaphylaxis is the most serious possible wheat allergy complication. If you suspect anaphylaxis, you should call 911 immediately and administer your epinephrine as instructed.
Tests and Diagnosis of wheat allergy
While there are several good wheat allergy tests, one of the most common is a simple skin test. A small amount of wheat protein is placed just under your skin and the location is examined about half an hour later for a positive or negative result. Skin tests are very convenient as they can be performed in the Accent Allergy office and you’ll know your results before you leave.
If you have a skin problem that prevents skin testing, an allergy blood test is also an option. Blood is drawn and a RAST test is performed. Although RAST testing is very accurate, results will not be immediate.
A food elimination test can be performed to check for wheat allergies and is particularly useful when it’s suspected that you’re allergic to several foods. The exact substance you’re allergic to can be found as foods are eliminated from your diet one by one.
Treatment of wheat allergy
Most food allergies don’t have a total “cure”, but they can still be effectively managed with avoidance and expert advice. Even a very common ingredient like wheat can be avoided and good substitutes found.
Can you be Allergic to Flour?
Yes, unfortunately. Flour is composed almost entirely of wheat, so it can certainly cause a reaction in those with a wheat allergy. However, there are other flours available which can be substituted, like potato starch flour and barley flour.
What is Wheat In?
Here are some wheat allergy foods to avoid:
- Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
- Some starches
- Some cosmetics and personal hygiene products
Prevention of wheat allergy
If you or a loved one has a wheat allergy, follow your allergy physician’s instructions and keep your scheduled appointments. It’s also vital that you read labels, ask your restaurants about ingredients and avoid any foods containing wheat or wheat proteins. Consider other grains as an alternative to wheat, like rye, quinoa, corn and rice.
Always carry your injectable epinephrine and wear an allergy alert bracelet. They just might save your life.
Contact wheat allergy specialists in Gainesville, FL!
If you think that you or your child may have an allergy to wheat, please contact us! Our experts at Accent Allergy are ready to help you with definitive allergy testing and effective treatment and management options.
Accent Allergy & Sinus Center | 4340 W Newberry Rd #301 | Gainesville, FL 32607 | (352) 271-5389