When someone is allergic to wheat, the body’s immune system, which normally fights infections, overreacts to proteins in the wheat. When the person eats something made with wheat, the body thinks that these proteins are harmful invaders. Wheat allergy is most common in children, and is usually outgrown before reaching adulthood, often by age three. Symptoms of a wheat allergy reaction can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis Is a Life-Threatening Reaction
Wheat allergy can cause a severe allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can begin with milder symptoms, but then can quickly worsen, leading to someone having trouble breathing or passing out. If it is not treated, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.
If your child has been diagnosed with a life-threatening wheat allergy (or any kind of life-threatening food allergy), the doctor will want him or her to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
An epinephrine auto-injector is a prescription medicine that comes in an easy-to-carry container about the size of a large marker. It’s simple to use. If your child needs to have it on hand, your doctor will show you how to use it.
Kids who are old enough can be taught how to give themselves the injection. If they are responsible for carrying the epinephrine, it should be nearby, not locked in a locker or in the nurse’s office.
Wherever your child is, adult caregivers should always know where the epinephrine is, have easy access to it, and know how to give the shot. Staff at your child’s school should know about the allergy and have an action plan in place. Your child’s rescue medications (such as epinephrine) should be accessible at all times.
If your child starts having serious allergic symptoms, like swelling of the mouth or throat or difficulty breathing, give the epinephrine auto-injector right away. Seconds count during an episode of anaphylaxis. Then call 911 or take your child to the emergency room. Your child needs to be under medical supervision because even if the worst seems to have passed, it’s common for a second wave of serious symptoms to happen.
It’s also a good idea to carry an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine for your child as this can help treat mild allergy symptoms. Use antihistamines after — not as a replacement for — the epinephrine shot during life-threatening reactions.
The immune system responds by working very hard to fight off the invader. This causes an allergic reaction, in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body. The release of these chemicals can cause someone to have these symptoms:
• trouble breathing
• throat tightness
• itchy, watery, or swollen eyes
• red spots
• a drop in blood pressure, causing lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
A wheat allergy can present a challenge for the diet as well as for baking, because wheat is the nation’s predominant grain product. Someone on a wheat-restricted diet can eat a wide variety of foods, but the grain source must be something other than wheat.
In planning a wheat-free diet, look for alternate grains such as amaranth, barley, corn, oat, quinoa, rice, rye, and tapioca. When baking with wheat-free flours, a combination of flours usually works best. Experiment with different blends to find one that will give you the texture you are trying to achieve.
Advice to Wheat Allergies
The federal Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that all packaged food products sold that contains wheat as an ingredient must list the word “Wheat” on the label.