Wheat allergy develops when the body’s immune system overreacts to one of the proteins that exist in the wheat you’ve eaten. The overreaction could be in the form of hives, tongue, lip, or throat swelling, stomach pain, and difficulty breathing. Some people have an allergic reaction when they inhale wheat flour, and this can occur within minutes or sometimes hours of either consuming or inhaling wheat. Wheat allergy is one of the most common childhood food allergies, but it may also affect adults.
Exposure to a wheat protein primes the immune system for an allergic reaction. A person may develop an allergy to any of the four classes of wheat proteins: albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten.
A person with wheat allergy will mostly likely develop the following:
- Swelling, itching, or irritation of the mouth or throat
- Hives or rashes on the skin
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Cramps, nausea, or vomiting
Some people may experience those symptoms of they exercise within a few hours after consuming wheat proteins. This type of reaction is more dangerous, as it could lead to anaphylaxis.
Wheat Allergy Tests
There are several tests that can reveal a wheat allergy, all of which must be done with a qualified health professional.
- Food challenge testing
This is done in a hospital or in a specialized allergy center. The patient is given capsules which contain possible allergens. The patient is given a small dose, which is increased gradually over a period of hours or days, while being monitored for symptoms.
- Skin Prick Test
Diluted foods are placed on the patient’s arm or back in this process. If there is itching, redness, or swelling, it is most likely a positive reaction. However, this test is not definitive.
- Blood Test
This test is specifically used to detect antibodies for specific foods, which indicate the likelihood of an allergy.
Wheat Allergy Treatment
Prevention is better than cure, but it is difficult to avoid wheat proteins as so many foods contain wheat. Be vigilant in checking food labels when buying groceries. Antihistamines can lower the immune system’s response to the wheat protein you’re allergic to, which should be taken after exposure to wheat. Note that antihistamines should be used under the guidance of a physician or an allergist.
Epinephrine, or adrenaline, is for emergencies. Patients at high risk of anaphylaxis should have two injectable doses of epinephrine, which is administered as an auto-injector pen straight onto the skin. Adrenaline helps to open up the airways, allowing the patient to breathe easily and also to restore a severely low blood pressure.