Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to foods containing wheat. Allergic reactions can show up after eating wheat and also, in some cases, by inhaling wheat flour.
What is Wheat?
Wheat is a type of grass that is widely cultivated. It is one of the oldest and most important of the cereal crops. Wheat belongs to the genus Triticum, which has many species and varieties. The most widely grown is common wheat (T. aestivum), used to make bread; durum wheat (T. durum), used to make pasta; and club wheat (T. compactum), used to make cake, crackers, cookies, pastries, and flours. Wheat is an important source of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and some vitamins and minerals.
It can cause symptoms such as swelling, itching, hives, difficulty breathing, cramps, nausea, vomiting or anaphylaxis. Wheat allergy is different from celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine when gluten is ingested.
The primary treatment for wheat allergy is to avoid wheat and any products that contain it. This may not be easy, as wheat is found in many foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, crackers, cakes, cookies and more. You may need to read the ingredient labels carefully and look for wheat-free or gluten-free alternatives.
When it comes to medications, antihistamine medications or corticosteroids may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, an epinephrine injection could be prescribed to quickly reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Prevalence of Wheat Allergy
Wheat allergy is not very common. According to a meta-analysis of the prevalence of wheat allergy worldwide, the estimated rates of wheat allergy are:
- 0.63% for self-reported
- 0.70% for self-reported physician-diagnosed
- 0.22% for skin prick test positive
- 0.97% for specific immunoglobulin E positive
- 0.04% for food challenge
Wheat allergy is more common in children than in adults, and most children outgrow it by ages 3 to 5. About 0.4% of children in the U.S. have a wheat allergy.