Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to foods containing wheat, one of the top eight food allergens in the United States. Allergic reactions can result from eating wheat, but also, in some cases, by inhaling wheat flour. Wheat can be found in many foods, including some you might not suspect, such as beer, soy sauce and ketchup.

Avoiding wheat is the primary treatment for wheat allergy. Medications may be necessary to manage allergic reactions if you accidentally eat wheat.

Wheat allergy sometimes is confused with celiac disease, but these conditions differ. A wheat allergy generates an allergy-causing antibody to proteins found in wheat. In people with celiac disease, a particular protein in wheat — gluten — causes an abnormal immune system reaction.

    A child or adult with wheat allergy is likely to develop symptoms within minutes to 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
    • Headache
    • Itchy, watery eyes
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Cramps, nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Anaphylaxis

    Most young children with wheat allergy outgrow it by ages 3 to 5.

    Anaphylaxis

    For some people, wheat allergy may cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In addition to other signs and 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
    • Fast heartbeat

    When to see a doctor

    If someone shows signs of anaphylaxis, call 911 or your local emergency number. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate care.

    If you suspect that you or your child is allergic to wheat or another food, see your doctor.

      If you have wheat allergy, exposure to a wheat protein primes your immune system for an allergic reaction. You can develop an allergy to any of the four classes of wheat proteins — albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten.

      Sources of wheat proteins

      Some sources of wheat proteins are obvious, such as bread, but all wheat proteins — and gluten in particular — can be found in many prepared foods and even in some cosmetics, bath products and play dough. Foods that may include wheat proteins include:

      • Breads and bread crumbs
      • Cakes and muffins
      • Cookies
      • Breakfast cereals
      • Pasta
      • Couscous
      • Farina
      • Semolina
      • Spelt
      • Crackers
      • Beer
      • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
      • Soy sauce
      • Some condiments, such as ketchup
      • Meat products, such as hot dogs or cold cuts
      • Dairy products, such as ice cream
      • Natural flavorings
      • Gelatinized starch
      • Modified food starch
      • Vegetable gum
      • Licorice
      • Jelly beans
      • Hard candies

      If you have a wheat allergy, you might also be allergic to barley, oats and rye — but the chance is slim. If you’re not allergic to grains other than wheat, a wheat-free diet is less restrictive than a gluten-free diet.

      Wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis

      Some people with a wheat allergy develop symptoms only if they exercise within a few hours after eating wheat. Exercise-induced changes in your body either trigger an allergic reaction or worsen an immune system response to a wheat protein. This condition usually results in life-threatening anaphylaxis.

        Certain factors may put you at greater risk of developing a wheat allergy:

        • Family history. You’re at increased risk of allergy to wheat or other foods if your parents have food allergies or other allergies, such as hay fever.
        • Age. Wheat allergy is most common in babies and toddlers, who have immature immune and digestive systems. Most children outgrow wheat allergy, but adults can develop it, often as a cross-sensitivity to grass pollen.


            Avoiding wheat proteins is the best treatment for wheat allergy. Because wheat proteins appear in so many prepared foods, read product labels carefully.

            Drugs

            • Antihistamines may reduce signs and symptoms of wheat allergies. These drugs can be taken after exposure to wheat to control your reaction and help relieve discomfort. Ask your doctor if a prescription or over-the-counter allergy drug is appropriate for you.
            • Epinephrine is an emergency treatment for anaphylaxis. If you’re at risk of having a severe reaction to wheat, you may need to carry two injectable doses of epinephrine (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) with you at all times. A second pen is recommended for people at high risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis in case anaphylactic symptoms return before emergency care is available.

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