Wheat allergy, the most prevalent food allergy, is most common in young children, usually developing in the infancy and toddler years. Some infants and young children will appear to lose their wheat allergies between the ages of three and five, however some will merely be in remission until their 20s or 30s.  Some children will continue to experience wheat allergies throughout their lives. While wheat allergies that develop in adolescence or adulthood are rare, it does occur.

Children with wheat allergies often have allergies to other foods, so it’s important to have your child tested once you begin to suspect a wheat allergy. Some food allergies can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, so it may be important to keep medications on hand in case a food allergy occurs. Below are few of the symptoms of wheat allergies.

Symptoms of Wheat Allergies

Many wheat allergy symptoms are similar to those reactions a person has to airborne allergens like pollen and dust. You may notice your infant or young child experiencing an itching and swelling of the mouth, throat, or skin when products containing wheat have been ingested. Itchy or watery eyes and congestion may also be present. Because of this, it may be easy to mistake a wheat allergy for regular airborne allergies.

Histamine reactions, including swelling of the mouth or throat and difficulty breathing, may be more serious. Anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated right away, is described in more detail below.

Gastrointestinal Reactions

Typical food allergy reactions affecting the gastrointestinal tract include diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, and cramping. Because gastrointestinal problems can have a variety of digestion-related causes, often these reactions are hard to pinpoint as wheat-related.

Anaphylaxis

Many who are familiar with allergies are well-aware of what anaphylaxis is.  It’s an allergic reaction that causes swelling and itching, the most dangerous of which is in the throat. Anaphylaxis can cause a person’s throat to close up, cutting off the air supply and causing an inability to breathe.

In anaphylaxis, a person’s heart rate can accelerate and chest pain can also be present. The frightening thing about anaphylaxis is that it often comes on quickly and accelerates before you have a chance to get help. Antihistamines can help get symptoms under control so you can get the person to a hospital, but for many who may be at risk for anaphylaxis, epinephrine should be close by at all times.

Wheat Allergies in Adults

While wheat allergies may more commonly appear in patients during infancy and early childhood, adults can develop wheat allergies without warning. While infants may appear to outgrow the wheat allergy in a few years they may merely be in remission only to manifest the wheat allergy in adulthood.

In adults, wheat allergies may take longer to notice, since gastrointestinal problems can easily be attributed to other sources. You may think you’re simply suffering heartburn or diarrhea based on something else you ate, for instance. Symptoms can also sometimes be subtle. The best way to know for sure whether or not you have an allergy to wheat is to undergo skin tests.

Exercise- and Aspirin-Induced Anaphylaxis

In exercise-induced anaphylaxis, symptoms occur during exercise, progressing as the physical activity continues. The form of anaphylaxis that impacts wheat allergy sufferers is called “food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis.” The reaction occurs when someone undergoes physical activity within hours of eating a certain food. In this case, the anaphylaxis would occur when a person allergic to wheat ingested wheat, then exerted themselves physically soon after.

Food-dependent aspirin-induced anaphylaxis occurs when aspirin is ingested within so many hours of an allergen being ingested. Those suffering from wheat allergies may want to avoid taking aspirin following mealtimes, especially if anaphylactic symptoms begin appearing on a regular basis. 

Wheat Allergies vs. Celiac Disease

Those suffering from celiac disease have an allergy to gluten, the primary ingredient in wheat. However, those with celiac disease will experience symptoms that are more severe than those that people who are allergic to wheat will suffer.

Fortunately, because wheat allergies are becoming more prevalent, it now falls under food labeling guidelines to warn those suffering from wheat allergies if a product contains wheat or gluten. Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, manufacturers must clearly label products containing food allergens.