Manage Your Child’s Care with MyChart
A wheat allergy is a reaction by your child's immune system to the
proteins found in wheat. Our immune systems normally respond to
bacteria or viruses that attack the body. A food allergy occurs when
the body's immune system mistakenly believes that a harmless food
substance (such as proteins found in wheat) is harmful. In order to
protect the body, the immune system creates substances called
antibodies to that food. The next time you eat that particular food,
your immune system releases huge amounts of chemicals, such as
histamines, to protect the body. This is what causes the warning
Wheat is among the 8 foods that are responsible for most food
allergies in children. The other foods include milk, soy, peanuts,
tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews), eggs, fish, and shellfish.
If you think your child is allergic to wheat or any other food, it
is important to get a diagnosis from your healthcare provider or
allergist. Allergic reactions to wheat usually begin within minutes
or a few hours after eating or inhaling wheat (flour). There are 4
types of protein found in wheat, (albumin, globulin, gliadin, and
gluten). Your child may be allergic to any one of these proteins.
Oats, rye, and barley also contain gluten and may cause symptoms.
Ask your healthcare provider if your child needs to avoid these
grains as well.
Common symptoms include:
Although rare, it is possible to have an allergic reaction called
anaphylactic shock. This is a serious reaction that is sudden,
severe, and can involve the whole body. It can cause swelling of the
mouth and throat, dangerously lower blood pressure, and trouble
breathing. This type of reaction is a medical emergency. It is
treated with epinephrine (a medicine that is given by injection).
Usually parents or caregivers of children who have severe allergic
reactions carry their own shot kits, just in case of emergency.
An allergic reaction to a food usually starts within minutes but may
be delayed 2 to 4 hours. It usually lasts less than 1 day. The more
severe the allergy, the smaller the amount of food it takes to cause
The only way to not have a reaction is to avoid the food that causes
the allergy symptoms. Your child will need to avoid all sources of
wheat. If you are breast-feeding, eliminate the food your child is
allergic to from your diet. Food allergens can be absorbed from your
diet and enter into your breast milk Wheat is found in hundreds of
foods such as most bread products, pastas, and items made with
flour. Many processed foods contain flour-based thickeners. You will
need to change the way you shop for, prepare and order foods. Be
sure to check the ingredients on food package labels and ask the
waiter about how foods are prepared when dining away from home.
The first step is to learn to read labels and become familiar with
ingredients that contain wheat or wheat products. Study the lists
below to learn more about foods and ingredients to watch out for.
If you are not sure after reading the label, call the manufacturer,
If you are not sure, avoid the food product.
Foods that contain wheat
Foods/ingredients that often contain wheat (check the label or ask)
You will need to prepare more meals from scratch using whole natural
foods. Wheat-free food products, such as bread and pancake mixes,
noodles, and substitute flours such as potato, rice, soy, and corn
are often available in health food markets and the natural foods
section of grocery stores. There are also Web sites where you can
buy specialty foods online (such as http://www.allergygrocer.com).
To be on the safe side, buy products that have an 800 number for you
to call and ask about ingredients.
Cross contamination can be problem when trying to avoid wheat. Wheat
can come in contact with other foods during processing and in
preparation, even if not included in the recipe. At home, use
separate cutting boards, bowls, and utensils and label all food
Reading labels to avoid allergens has become a lot easier. Foods
that contain milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat,
or soy products must list the food in plain language on the
ingredient list. For example, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (wheat).
These possible allergens must be listed even if they are part of a
flavoring, coloring, or spice blend. There are still some things to
watch out for when reading food labels:
It is very important for you to know less common names and
scientific names for food ingredients.
How can I provide my child with a healthy diet that tastes good?
Your child can still have a nutritionally complete diet as well as
continue to enjoy some kid favorites. The primary nutrients found in
wheat are carbohydrate, protein, niacin, zinc, magnesium, and fiber,
as well as fortification with folic acid and iron. Your child can
get all these nutrients from other foods, but there is a risk for
not getting enough B vitamins. Other sources of B vitamins include
dark leafy vegetables, bananas, asparagus, oranges, peanuts, and
other fortified grains such as corn meal and rice flours. Ask your
healthcare provider or dietitian if your child should take vitamin
Most recipes can be modified to fit a wheat-free diet. There are
several good wheat-free or gluten-free cookbooks and web sites with
recipes. The Gluten Free Gourmet series by Betty Hagman and
Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus by Carol Fenster include excellent
recipes and information about substitutions. The Gluten Free Mall at
http://www.GlutenFreeMall.com offers many specialty food products.
Organizations such as the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
(http://www.foodallergy.org), The Celiac Foundation
(http://celiac.org) and the Celiac Sprue Association
(http://www.csaceliacs.org) also have wheat-free recipes and
cookbooks. Wheat allergy and celiac disease are not the same, but
people with both conditions must avoid wheat products.