Cinnamon is a go-to spice for many people. Whether it’s cinnamon rolls or cinnamon on toast, this spice makes almost everything so tasty and so inviting. Unfortunately though, there are certain people who experience an allergic reaction to cinnamon. These people have a high sensitivity to the proteins in the spice.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees native to certain parts of China, India, and Southeast Asia and is sometimes touted for its medicinal use. It is usually found and used for flavor in foods and other items such as the following:
- Chewing gum
- Breakfast cereals
- Baked goods (cookies, muffins, pies, cakes, etc.)
- Flavored tea
- Flavored coffee
People should be aware that cinnamon may not directly appear on food labels. The United States Food and Drug Administration allows producers to list some ingredients, including cinnamon, under headings such as “flavors,” “spices,” or “flavoring.” It may also be listed on labels as “cassia” or “mixed spice.”
Approximately 2 to 3 percent of those with food allergies live with a spice allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAII). If you’re having an allergic reaction, you may experience:
- tingling, itching, and swelling of the lips, face, and tongue
- swelling in other parts of the body
- trouble breathing
- nasal congestion
- abdominal pain
Anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction rarely happens with cinnamon allergy. However, anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock. If it happens, seek immediate medical care.
Although it’s very uncommon, reactions can be caused by artificial cinnamon flavor found in gum, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. A rare reaction to artificial cinnamon is called contact stomatitis, which can cause a burning or itching in the mouth. This can be easily remedied as soon as you stop ingesting the cinnamon flavor. Cinnamyl alcohol or cinnamaldehyde, which are used in fragrances, can also trigger a reaction.
Diagnosing Cinnamon Allergy
Doctors may order multiple tests to diagnose a cinnamon allergy. He or she may order a blood test to detect hypersensitivity to the spice through the antibodies found in your blood. Your doctor may also order a skin patch test. If you believe that you may have a cinnamon or spice allergy, schedule an appointment with your doctor so together, you can determine what to do next.
Treatment usually involves limiting exposure to cinnamon or completely avoiding it. Doctors may recommend using antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. Once a person is diagnosed with a food allergy, the doctor or allergist may give them a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector. If anaphylaxis occurs, this can relieve symptoms until emergency medical help arrives.
The ACAAI recommends that children with cinnamon or any other allergy and their guardians or caretakers to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, in case a reaction occurs outside the home. They also recommend that school teachers should know about the child’s allergy.
Living with Cinnamon Allergy
People who are allergic to cinnamon should take precautions when using cooking products and cosmetics. The ACAAI notes that those who are living with spice allergy can experience a low quality of life, restrictive diets, and possibly malnutrition, as they attempt to avoid trigger foods. It is then recommended that they coordinate well with their allergist or a nutritionist to help them to ensure that they meet their nutritional needs.