Medical Advice

Allergy to Wheat Based Cereals

An allergy is an abnormal, exaggerated body response triggered by exposure to common substances present in the environment. Food allergies can occur at any age, but most commonly in children and especially in infants because both the immune system and the digestive system are still in training, being more likely to develop an allergic reaction to a protein in a food or food additive. There are infants sensitive to these foods that may develop an allergic reaction through breast milk if the mother has consumed these foods. Eight foods or food categories representing 90% of IgE-mediated food allergies were described: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, nuts, soy, and wheat. Wheat allergy can occur usually because wheat is found in many foods (bread, cookies, pretzels, crackers, pasta spices).



Symptoms of food allergies can be seen at the respiratory, digestive or skin level. The symptoms can occur for several minutes to several hours after eating products containing wheat:

1. on the skin: urticaria, pruritus, rash, skin edema, atopic dermatitis.
2. the respiratory system: cough, wheezing (whistling sound is heard in expiration and is caused by airway obstruction), shortness of breath, nasal itching, nasal congestion or runny nose and consistent sneezing.
3. the digestive system: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
4. in children, sometimes the only symptoms are loud crying (due to colic, abdominal discomfort), vomiting, blood in stool, diarrhea, constipation and in late cases retardation of growth.

The severity of the symptoms ranges from mild to life-threatening situations; the anaphylaxis can occur within minutes to 1 hour after ingestion requiring emergency help, but may reappear in 1 or 2 hours later due to the progression of the allergen in the digestive tract reaching the stomach, intestine where it is reabsorbed into the blood. In this case lips, tongue, or face edema, shortness of breath, severe breathing difficulties, food refusal, pale skin, cyanotic, dizziness, tachycardia, weak pulse, hypotension, may occur.


Normally, the body tends to defend itself through the immune system which reacts to what is non-self (non-body), i.e. viruses, bacteria, toxins, by producing antibodies. There are 4 different classes of wheat proteins which cause reactions and can cause allergic IgE antibody: albumin, globulins, prolamins and glutelina. Any of these can cause an allergic reaction, but globulin is the most allergic.

Wheat proteins are found most frequently in bread, but can also be found in other foods, cosmetics, stationery, such as: bread, cakes, breakfast cereals, pasta, couscous, cracker, soy sauce, condiments, meat products, ice cream, natural flavors, gelatin food, chewing gum, jellies, candy, pretzels, modeling clay, glue, cosmetics. Patients with wheat allergy can be allergic to other grains that contain similar proteins, such as barley, oats, rye. Allergic reactions to gluten may be mild or chronic, as with celiac disease.

Risk factors:

1. family history, atopy – i.e. genetic predisposition to develop allergic disease possibly atopic dermatitis or asthma;
2. age – the most common food allergies are in children due to their immature immune system.


Knowledge of the food, cosmetics that contain wheat protein and their avoidance is the best way to prevent allergic reactions. Parents should read the labels of all packaging before giving their child a certain food, before using cosmetics (lotions, creams, soaps) that contain proteins from wheat, stationery products, glue, plasticine.
In case of a mild wheat allergy, the medication used to relieve symptoms include antihistamines and corticosteroids to treat hives, nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose and when triggering an asthma attack to reduce the bronchospasm occurred after aspiration of flour particles, thus facilitating breathing.


Because food allergies, including wheat allergy, often occur in atopic people, it is recommended that all infants be fed naturally during the first year of life or longer and the introduction of gluten by the age of 6 months.

The patients’ with wheat allergy diet requires removing foods that contain wheat protein, so it is important for parents to read labels and recognize ingredients that may contain gluten-like protein: starch, bran, vegetable starch, vegetable gum. Children with a more restrictive diet of wheat, because of the limited possibilities in food choices, can have deficiencies of vitamin B and iron but they can compensate by eating green leafy foods (spinach, lettuce), brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, green beans, peas, bananas, sunflower seeds, brown rice. It’s important that parents inform teachers of the child’s school, close friends and to teach their children what food is allowed to eat when they are away from home.

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