Severe form of allergic reaction to wheat is called anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reaction is characterized by:
Block or swelling in throat,
Difficulty in swallowing and breathing,
Bluish color of the skin,
Rapid pulse and heart beat,
Loss of consciousness,
Sudden drop in blood pressure.
Anaphylactic reaction requires immediate medical attention as it can be life-threatening.
Allergic reaction is caused by an exaggerated response of the immune system to any of the proteins present in wheat.
Albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten are proteins that elicit an allergic reaction to wheat. On initial exposure to these proteins, the sensitive immune system produces antibodies against them. On further exposure the antibodies trigger the production of histamines. Histamines are chemicals responsible for typical symptoms of allergy.
Wheat as in bread is the most common source of allergens. But, wheat proteins may be found in many other food products like breakfast cereals, cakes, pasta, semolina, crackers, spelt, soy sauce, meat products, dairy products, jelly beans, and candies. Some people who are allergic to wheat are allergic to other grains like oats, barley, and rye.
In some people, symptoms of wheat allergy appear only if they exercise after eating wheat. The allergic reaction is caused by the changes in the body induced by physical activity. This condition is called as exercise-induced anaphylaxis. It may lead to anaphylactic reactions.
Having a family history of food allergy or hay fever increases the risk of developing wheat allergy. It is more common among small children who mostly outgrow it within few years. Some adults may develop it at a later stage.
4 Making a Diagnosis
Making a diagnosis of wheat allergy is done by performing several tests.
Timing of symptoms is the major indicator of wheat allergy. Doctors may perform a physical examination to rule out chances of any other condition that cause similar symptoms.
Skin test and blood test are also recommended to confirm this allergy.
In this test, a patch of skin is exposed to small amounts of protein extract by pricking the skin with a probe. Inflammation of the skin in the test region within 15 minutes is a sign of wheat allergy. The skin prick is usually done in upper arm or upper back.
This test is recommended if skin test cannot be performed due to some reason like drug interaction. Blood test is used to measure the amount of specific antibodies against the suspected allergen. Increased levels of antibodies indicate wheat allergy. It also gives a measure of sensitivity to the allergen.
In elimination diet, some of the common allergens in food is eliminated in the diet to see the reaction of the body. Gradually adding foods back help to see which specific food causes the symptoms. Reaction of the body to particular food allergen is also observed by taking small doses of suspected food. The symptoms are continuously monitored.
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