Sensitivity to wheat, and foods containing wheat, is reported in 6 percent of children. From this, it can be understood that wheat is one of the leading food items causing allergies. Symptoms are manifested due to hypersensitive responses of the immune system towards certain storage proteins found in wheat grains. In some patients, the symptoms are severe and life-threatening. Hence, a test for wheat intolerance is a must for confirmation and management of this food allergy type.
Symptoms of Wheat Allergy
Allergenic substances isolated from wheat are glutelin, gliadins, globulin, albumin, and lipid transfer proteins, among others. When a person having allergy to these proteins consumes wheat, the immune system mistakes it for a foreign substance, and secretes antibodies resulting in various symptoms.
Notable symptoms are hives, eczema, abdominal pain, nauseous feeling, difficulty in breathing, and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Wheat allergy is suspected if the mentioned symptoms are manifested after eating food items containing wheat.
Test for Wheat Allergy
In case of mild discomfort, one can monitor the diet intake, and maintain a diary of the consumed foods. That way, the foods that trigger the onset of symptoms can be identified easily. A time-consuming but straightforward way of wheat allergy test is following the elimination diet.
What needs to be done is to follow a diet plan free of wheat for some days (say for a week) and see for health improvement signs. Then, reintroduce wheat and examine adverse reactions (if any). When an individual experiences severe wheat allergy symptoms, he/she should not delay in consulting a trusted physician.
The doctor will examine the physical symptoms and recommend a wheat allergy test to ascertain whether the person is actually allergic to wheat proteins or not. There are three types of test procedures for the confirmation of wheat allergy or intolerance. Of these, a blood test is the most reliable approach, but it is time-consuming, and results will be delivered within 1 to 2 weeks. The quickest procedure is a skin prick test; this requires just 15 to 30 minutes. An allergy expert is the best person to take guidance from, regarding which test is suitable for the patient.
Skin Prick Test
A simple procedure to test for wheat allergy, a skin prick test involves loading a few drops of allergen extracts (wheat proteins) along with saline solution and histamine in the forearm. Using a sterile lancet, a tiny painless scratch is made onto the skin, where the drop is placed. The extract is retained for 15 minutes, during which the doctor monitors for skin symptoms, like redness, itchiness, bumps, and hives. If at all, symptoms appear, they are temporary and subside within 30 minutes of the test.
Food Challenge Test
As with other types of food allergies, wheat allergy can be diagnosed with the help of this testing method. The objective is similar to the elimination diet, except that this test requires a shorter period. It is conducted in the hospital or similar health care centers. Under this wheat allergy test, capsules containing suspected allergens are administered in a specific dosage under strict medical supervision. Then, candidates participating in the procedure are examined for allergic responses.
As aforementioned, a blood test is a reliable approach to confirm a wheat allergy. Also, it is the ultimate choice for people with existing skin symptoms, and those who experience drug interaction effects. A blood sample is collected for screening antibodies (immunoglobulin E) that are responsible for causing allergic reactions to wheat proteins. Based on the allergy test outcomes, results are given in the form of 0 to 6 scale. Having ‘0’ as a result means that the person is not allergic to wheat, ‘1’ indicates mild sensitivity, and 6 signifies severe wheat allergy.
In case the test comes positive, the doctor will suggest the elimination of foods that contain wheat proteins, such as bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, pasta, crackers, starch, beer, condiments, and some food substitutes. An easy approach for following a wheat allergy diet is to go through the product label and check for the presence of wheat grains before adding them to your shopping cart. Do not confuse wheat allergy with celiac disease (an autoimmune disease), even if both the health conditions require patients to follow a similarly restricted diet.