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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Tests For Diagnosing Wheat Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Wheat allergy refers mainly to a food allergy which occurs when an individual consumes wheat. It is a common allergy especially in children. There are several food products which contain wheat such as breads, cereals and cakes. It may also be found in some biscuits and sauces.

Tests Recommended

Various tests are available for diagnosing allergies. Wheat allergy tests include;

  • Skin Test - In a skin test, a tiny amount of the allergen, which in this case is wheat proteins, is placed on the skin. The skin is pricked and the allergen enters the skin. This is usually done on the forearm or back. The allergen is kept on the skin for about 15 minutes, while the doctor checks to see if a reaction occurs. In individuals who are allergic to wheat, the skin develops a red bump. Remember that this should not be tried at home or on your own as it could cause harm to your body.
  • Blood Test - In cases where a skin test cannot be done, the doctor may perform a blood test. This test helps to identify the presence of antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are responsible for an allergic reaction.
  • Food Diary - Individuals with allergies are often asked to keep a detailed record of their eating habits and symptoms so that the cause of the allergic reaction can be identified.
  • Elimination Diet - Foods that may be causing an allergic reaction are removed from the diet and then slowly re-introduced to see if they are responsible for symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Food challenge Testing - In this test, you will be asked to consume the food that may be causing the allergy in the form of capsules. You will be supervised during this test and any symptoms you may be experience are monitored closely.

Causes

An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system identifies certain substances as harmful and attempts to get rid of them. The immune system releases antibodies which fight against germs and protect the body. In wheat allergy, the immune system reacts against the proteins found in wheat. The four types of proteins contained in wheat are;

  • Albumin
  • Globlulin
  • Gliadin
  • Gluten

Any of these proteins can trigger an allergic reaction. Gluten allergy is an extremely common condition which affects a large number of people.

Wheat allergy causes include several foods which contain wheat proteins. These foods include breads, cookies, pastas, soy sauce, ketchup, ice cream, crackers, hard candy, licorice and natural flavorings. Many individuals with wheat allergy are also allergic to grains such as oat, rye and barley.

In some cases, wheat allergy occurs when an individual exercises a few hours after consuming wheat. This occurs because of the changes that exercise induces in the body. This may lead to anaphylaxis. Individuals with this type of wheat allergy may also experience a reaction if they consume wheat and then take aspirin.

Both exercise and aspirin may result in certain bodily changes that trigger a reaction to wheat. Another type of wheat allergy is baker's asthma which is an allergic reaction to wheat and other varieties of flour. This reaction occurs due to inhalation of wheat.

Celiac disease is a condition in which an individual reacts adversely to gluten. It affects the small intestines and can lead to poor absorption of nutrients.

Symptoms

Wheat allergy symptoms may occur soon after you consume foods containing wheat. The common signs and symptoms of wheat allergy include;

  • Hives, itchy rash or swelling of the skin
  • Itching of the mouth or throat, Swelling
  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or Vomiting

Some individuals may suffer from anaphylaxis due to wheat allergy. Anaphylaxis is a serious condition which requires prompt medical attention. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include chest pain, swelling of the throat, breathing trouble, pale skin and fainting.

Treatment

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid exposure to wheat. It is important to read food labels carefully as wheat proteins are present in many food products. Wheat allergy treatment includes the following medications;

  • Antihistamines help to alleviate the symptoms of wheat allergy. You can take antihistamine after exposure to wheat proteins has occurred. These drugs are available over-the-counter. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe an antihistamine that is suitable for your needs.
  • Epinephrine is to be used in case of anaphylaxis. It is an emergency treatment which is helpful in case a severe reaction to wheat occurs. Your doctor may advise you to keep epinephrine with you at all times in the form of an auto injector which you can administer to yourself in case you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  • Emergency medical attention is necessary in case of anaphylaxis. It is important to call for prompt medical care even after you have taken a dose of epinephrine.
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