Signs Your Child May Have A Wheat Allergy
Food allergy occurs in around 10% of infants and 4-8% of Australian children. It is unusual in childhood to have a wheat allergy by itself. Most commonly wheat allergy occurs in children who also have an egg, milk and/or nut allergy.
More often it is the symptoms of the egg, milk or nut allergy that take you to the doctor and the milder wheat allergy may be diagnosed at that time. Food allergic symptoms may occur immediately or from 20 minutes to 2 hours after ingesting the foods.
Symptoms of food allergy may include
- red skin, scratching
- hives or eczema skin rash
- nausea, vomiting
- stomach pains, diarrhoea
- itchy mouth, throat and lips
- swollen lips or face
Symptoms may progress in some to breathing difficulties such as
- noisy breathing, coughing, wheezing
- difficulty talking
What your child can communicate will vary with age. If you suspect a food allergy stop feeding your child the suspected foods and visit your doctor ASAP.
A family history of allergy and the presence of eczema and asthma are common in children who have a diagnosed food allergy.
A skin prick test is performed usually to the common allergens nut, egg, milk, wheat, soy and seafood. This is where droplets of individual purified food proteins, suspended in liquid, are put onto the forearm. A very sharp lancet is gently pricked through the droplet to scratch the outer layer of skin. If a welt develops to the droplet, this alone does not diagnose an allergy. A specialized doctor or Allergist ‘reads’ this welt, taking into account the clinical history the parent gives about possible food reactions, before diagnosing an allergy.
At this time, a positive skin prick test to wheat indicates the childs’ immune system is overreacting to small amounts of specific wheat proteins, developing IgE antibodies. In most children, wheat allergy reactions appear as red, itchy, hives or eczema skin symptoms. Anaphylaxis to wheat is rarely seen in this age group. Most children with wheat allergy will grow out of it before or during primary school, but in some it will persist into their high school years.
If wheat allergy is diagnosed, unless instructed otherwise by a doctor, wheat along with any other allergic foods that the child is sensitised to, are totally avoided. Doctors monitor wheat-IgE antibody levels and when they have reduced, parents will be advised when wheat products can be trialled in the child’s diet. Always follow the advice of your doctor and health care team. Wheat allergy is a very different reaction to coeliac disease. Since wheat allergy is an allergy to certain wheat proteins but not gluten; rye, barley and oats can be eaten. Seek advice from a specialised dietitian to ensure both obvious and hidden wheat, along with the other allergens that the child is sensitised to, are removed, and in doing so your childs’ nutrition is maintained for growth and development.
Signs of coeliac disease in infants and children:
1. Venter et al. A patient-specific approach to develop an exclusion diet to manage food allergy in infants and children. Clin Exp Allergy. 2018;48:121–137.