A not so rare sight for parents is to see their children break out into a sudden rash after eating bread, pasta, or other wheat-based products. These are wheat allergy symptoms.
A CHALLENGING ALLERGY
Allergy to wheat is one of the most challenging and common allergies in children, but many tend to outgrow it once they reach adulthood. It’s challenging because wheat is a staple in our diets and is used in numerous food products. If you see your child developing a hive-like rash or diarrhea after eating cereal, pastas, and breads, your child may be having an allergic reaction to wheat. Wheat allergy and wheat allergy symptoms affect many children in America. The intensity of the allergic reaction can vary from mild to severe, so it is important to be aware of what foods to eat and what to avoid.
Wheat is an essential part of our diet. It is a grain and poses no risk to most children. But children who come from families with a history of allergies tend to show an increased risk of food allergies, including wheat. During an allergic response, the immune system is reacting to the protein in the wheat that the body’s defense system mistaken sees as harmful. As a result, the immune system produces antibodies against the protein, leading to an allergic reaction in the body.
WHEAT ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
Reactions to wheat allergy can be immediate or delayed. Immediate reaction to wheat usually affects infants and toddlers. They typically present with hives, rashes, and a runny nose. They may show symptoms of stomach pain and diarrhea, too. This type of allergy usually fades away within the first couple of years of childhood. The delayed allergic reaction to wheat protein happens to children with a history of eczema. They develop symptoms a day or two after consuming wheat. Usually, this aggravates the underlying eczema.
Most commonly, an allergy to wheat will show these wheat allergy symptoms. The number of symptoms and the intensity of the attack and number of organs affected are determined by the child’s wheat sensitivity.
- Runny nose
- Wheezing and/or coughing
- Watering eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Loose stool
- Itchy rashes
- Red spots and swelling
Different children react differently to the same allergen, and your child may have a different set of symptoms during individual attacks. If the allergy involves more than one system of the body, it can lead to a severe form of reaction called anaphylaxis, wherein the child may find it difficult to breathe or may have severe wheezing. Immediate medical assistance is required.
The diagnosis of a wheat allergy is based on a complete medical history and examination, along with a skin-prick allergy test and blood test for serum IgE levels.
WHEAT ALLERGIES VERSUS CELIAC DISEASE
Wheat allergies should not be mistaken or confused with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a disorder of the gastrointestinal system, which is not an allergic condition but primarily an autoimmune disorder.
COPING WITH WHEAT ALLERGIES IN YOUR CHILDREN
The most important rule in managing a wheat allergy is strict avoidance of wheat, both in food and non-edible products. Listing wheat as an ingredient on food labels has become compulsory by law. This will allow you to identify and avail wheat containing foods, thereby limiting wheat allergy episodes and controlling wheat allergy symptoms. As alternatives to wheat, you can opt for food with corn, oats, soya, rice, quinoa, barley and rye.
Parents need to educate themselves and their children about wheat allergy triggers such as bread, pasta, bulgur, or any other food containing wheat. Being able to identify wheat allergy symptoms is also key. This is especially important as there are non food products such as some cosmetics, candies and even Play-Doh that contain wheat as an ingredient. Any of these items may trigger an acute episode.
You simply need to modify your child’s diet a bit to ensure safe yet nutritious food. Wheat-free as well as gluten-free products are easily available in many organic and grocery stores. Parents also need to check labels for cross-contamination—certain food products don’t contain wheat as an ingredient, but they may be contaminated with traces of wheat during packing and production. Always make sure that when your child is eating out or at school, responsible adults are aware that your child requires wheat-free food.
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- Sicherer SH. Clinical implications of cross-reactive food allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Dec. 108(6):881-90.