Although it may not be as well known as Celiac disease, a wheat allergy is a serious and potentially life threatening health condition. Symptoms range from minor nasal congestion to anaphylaxis and are caused by the body's histamine reaction to wheat and wheat products. An allergy, unlike a gluten intolerance, produces symptoms minutes to hours after the wheat exposure.
Eight Symptoms of a Wheat Allergy
The Mayo Clinic reports that wheat allergies are one of the most common childhood food allergies, but they also affect adults of all ages. Even minor allergic symptoms are cause for concern, since the next exposure may be life threatening. Speak to your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms after consuming wheat or wheat products.
Runny or Congested Nose
According to Dr. Ben Kim, food allergies, including an allergy to wheat, can cause sinus problems and nasal congestion. The tiny blood vessels inside your nose react to the wheat by swelling up. This causes your nose to feel congested, and it can cause you to snore or experience sleep apnea. This symptom typical begins about an hour after consuming wheat and can continue for several minutes or several hours afterward.
Watery or Itchy Eyes
Itchy eyes are another symptom of a wheat allergy. According to Allergy Aware, the itching and watering happens because of a histamine reaction in the body. Your body sees the wheat as an invader and attacks it. Part of this attack involves flushing the invader from your body by creating extra tears.
Hives or Itchy Skin
According to WebMD, wheat is one of the allergies that can commonly produce hives on your skin. These itchy bumps of various sizes are a sign that your body is dealing with an allergic reaction. In addition to itching, hives can also cause the skin to have a burning or sore sensation. They can occur anywhere on your body, but common locations include the trunk, face, mouth, and tongue.
Itching or Swelling of the Lips, Mouth, or Throat
The National Institute of Health reports that wheat is one of the foods that can produce an allergic reaction involving the mouth, lips, and throat of the person who ingests it. This is called an oral allergy, and it results from topical contact with the wheat product.
Nausea or Vomiting
According to American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (AAAAI), wheat exposure can also cause vomiting in allergic individuals. Some people with wheat allergies may only experience nausea when consuming wheat.
Cramps or Diarrhea
The AAAAI also reports that cramps and diarrhea are common food allergy symptoms, especially in those allergic to wheat. If you're experiencing gastrointestinal upset immediately after eating wheat products, this may be the cause.
Wheezing or Difficulty Breathing
According to Rush University Medical Center, food allergies, including wheat allergies, can cause breathlessness and wheezing. If you are feeling short of breath, call for medical help right away. This symptom can be life threatening.
Wheat can also trigger exercise-induced anaphylaxis, according to an article published in Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Symptoms of anaphylaxis, which may or may not involve exercise, include anxiety, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, and other serious reactions. If you notice someone who shows signs of anaphylaxis, call 911.
Know When to Call for Help
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of a wheat allergy, you should contact your doctor for testing. Your doctor can then diagnose and help you treat the condition. However, if you notice severe allergic signs, particularly those involving your breathing, mouth, throat, and lips, you should get medical help right away. Quick action can save a life.
Simple to Treat
Once diagnosed, a wheat allergy is simple to treat. You'll begin a diet that eliminates all wheat products, and your doctor may suggest that you carry a dose of epinephrine with you at all times in case of accidental exposure. However, there are a number of great wheat-free foods you can enjoy without compromising your health.