Whether it’s cinnamon rolls or cinnamon on toast, cinnamon is a go-to spice for many people. So what do you do if you’ve been diagnosed with a cinnamon allergy? What’s your first step? Maybe this is a recent diagnosis and you’re trying to find out how much of an effect this will have on your life. Here’s a look at the big picture.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees native to China, India, and Southeast Asia. It’s sometimes touted for its use in folk medicine, although the National Institutes of Health says clinical evidence supporting the medicinal properties of cinnamon is typically lacking.
Cinnamon is frequently used for flavor in foods and other items. You can commonly find it in:
- chewing gum
- breakfasts cereals
- baked goods, such as cookies, muffins, pies, cakes, biscuits, and pastries
- flavored tea
- flavored coffee
What Are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?
A small percentage of people experience an allergic reaction after ingesting or coming into contact with cinnamon. Spice allergies make up about 2 percent of allergies, and they’re often underdiagnosed. This is because spice allergies can be hard to detect in skin and blood tests.
If you’re having an allergic reaction, you may experience:
- tingling, itching, and swelling of the lips, face, and tongue
- swelling in other parts of the body
- trouble breathing
- nasal congestion
- abdominal pain
A rare, but serious, reaction is known as anaphylaxis. This can cause you to go into shock. You should seek immediate medical care if you or someone around you has an anaphylactic reaction.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction?
Cinnamon is one of the most common spice allergy triggers. Breathing, eating, or touching the spice can trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
Although it’s uncommon, reactions can be caused by artificial cinnamon flavor found in gum, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. A rare reaction to artificial cinnamon is called contact stomatitis, which can cause a burning or itching in the mouth. The good news is that the condition improves as soon as you stop ingesting the cinnamon flavor.
Cinnamyl alcohol or cinnamaldehyde may be used in fragrances and can also trigger a reaction.
The symptoms of an allergy can range from mild sneezing to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can happen when your body attempts to neutralize the allergen with antibodies. Minimal contact with the allergen is needed to trigger the antibodies. The amount necessary to trigger a reaction can decrease with each contact. Your body may go into shock if this happens.
If you or someone around you goes anaphylactic shock, seek immediate medical attention.
Diagnosing a Cinnamon Allergy
Multiple tests may be needed to diagnose a cinnamon allergy. You doctor may order a blood test to detect hypersensitivity to the spice through the antibodies in your blood. A skin patch test may also be used to determine what symptoms you’re experiencing and if they suggest you have a cinnamon allergy.
If you believe that you may have a cinnamon or spice allergy, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Together, the two of you can work through your symptoms and determine what to do next.
How to Treat a Cinnamon Allergy
If you’re experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction, it’s recommended that you take Benadryl. This should provide relief in as little as 15 minutes.
If you anticipate contact with this allergen and your doctor has made it clear that moderate contact is OK, it’s recommended that you take an antihistamine. This will prepare your body and limit or reduce the severity of any symptoms you may experience.
Seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible if you’re having trouble breathing.
How to Manage Your Allergy and Prevent Future Reactions
An allergist can help you better understand your allergy and work with you to develop a plan of action. Custom-made management plans usually include tracking triggers that cause a reaction. Another common treatment involves strict avoidance, although that can be a very hard thing to do.
Carefully reading labels on food and personal care products is essential. A complete ingredient list should be on the product, and the ingredients are listed from highest to lowest concentration.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate spices, which makes it hard to read labels and know which products contain cinnamon. Be aware that fragrances and flavorings aren’t required to be listed by specific chemical name and are often generically indicated as “fragrance.”
Besides reading labels, you’ll need to think ahead about where you’re eating. If you’re going out to eat, you’ll probably need to talk to the restaurant staff. If you’re going to travel, plan where you’ll be getting your food and if you need to provide any of your own.
Although having cinnamon allergies may require you to restrict your diet and what products you use, they’re manageable. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you have a cinnamon allergy. Together, you can work to diagnose your symptoms and come up with a plan of action.
If you’re aware of your cinnamon allergy, know that you’re not alone in this. Work with your doctor or an allergist to develop a personalized treatment plan. A personalized plan will allow you to adjust your regular consumption or product use to better suit your needs.