Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to foods containing wheat. Allergic reactions can be caused by eating wheat, but also, in some cases, by inhaling wheat flour.
Avoiding wheat is the primary treatment for wheat allergy, but that isn't always as easy as it sounds. Wheat is found in many foods, including some you might not suspect, such as soy sauce, ice cream and hot dogs. 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. Wheat allergy occurs when your body produces antibodies to proteins found in wheat. In celiac disease, a specific protein in wheat â gluten â causes a different kind of abnormal immune system reaction.
A child or adult with wheat allergy is likely to develop signs and symptoms within minutes to hours after eating something containing wheat. Wheat allergy symptoms include:
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:
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 â albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten.
Some sources of wheat proteins are obvious, such as bread, but all wheat proteins â and gluten in particular â can be found in many prepared foods and even in some cosmetics, bath products and play dough. Foods that may include wheat proteins include:
If you have wheat allergy, it's possible you might also be allergic to barley, oats and rye. Unless you're allergic to grains other than wheat, though, the recommended wheat-free diet is less restrictive than a gluten-free diet.
Some people with 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.
A physical exam, detailed medical history and some tests will help your doctor make a diagnosis. Tests or diagnostic tools may include:
Skin test. Tiny drops of purified allergen extracts â including extracts for wheat proteins â are pricked onto your skin's surface, either on your forearm or upper back. After 15 minutes, your doctor or nurse looks for signs of allergic reactions.
If you develop a red, itchy bump where the wheat protein extract was pricked onto your skin, you may be allergic to wheat. The most common side effect of these skin tests is itching and redness.
You can take steps to avoid exposure to wheat proteins and ensure prompt treatment when you're accidentally exposed to wheat.
Certain factors may put you at greater risk of developing wheat allergy: