Being allergic to garlic is more common than most people realize, research shows

  • According to data presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual (AAAAI) Meeting, garlic allergies are more common than most people realize.

  • Symptoms of a garlic allergy can include hives, a runny nose, skin rashes and asthma.

  • Experts recommend that people see a healthcare provider for an allergy test if they believe they have an allergy.

Although garlic is not a “big nine” allergen, garlic allergy is more common than most people realize.

According to data presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual (AAAAI) Meeting, allergies to this popular ingredient are quite common.

“There is very little information about garlic allergy in the literature. So this report will hopefully raise awareness of garlic allergy among patients and physicians alike,” said Thomas Casale, MD, a professor of medicine and pediatrics and chief of clinical and translational research at the University of South Florida Division of Allergy and Immunology in Tampa, Health in an email.

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What the numbers tell us

Dr. Casale and colleagues analyzed about 13,000 patients enrolled in the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) Patient Registry from May 2017 to October 2021.

They identified garlic (Allium sativa) allergy in 132 participants. In addition, 34 of the 132 patients reported an allergy to others Garlic varieties, such as onion, shallot, leek, spring onion and chives. Nearly 67% of participants were diagnosed by an allergist – a skin prick method was the most commonly used diagnostic test.

Researchers also found that more than half (56%) of participants with a garlic allergy went to the emergency room (ER) for a garlic-induced allergic reaction, while 19% were hospitalized and 6% were admitted to the intensive care unit. care (ICU). ).

“Some reactions were very serious, requiring hospitalization and ICU admission,” explains Dr. Casale out. “This is in stark contrast to people who just had mild symptoms with a few hives.”

Overall, patients with a garlic allergy were diagnosed later in life, had a higher family history of food allergies, and were more likely to have comorbid allergic rhinitis (runny nose), asthma, or atopic dermatitis (skin rash) compared to other patients in the FARE Registry with only one food allergy that was not garlic.

Dr. Casale noted how he hopes these findings can educate patients and medical providers about garlic allergies and help them take appropriate action.

Related: What Causes Allergies?

What a garlic allergy looks like

As with other food allergies, garlic allergies are caused by an immune system response, Ashley Okotie-Eboh, MD, a family medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group, told me. Health in an email.

If you are allergic to a certain product or food, your immune system will overreact to its presence in your body. Your immune system will then respond by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that travel to cells that release chemicals, such as histamine, causing an allergic reaction.

“Your body detects the garlic and labels it as a foreign material, creating an antibody that recognizes the garlic and triggers a cascade of an allergic reaction,” explains Dr. Okotie-Eboh out.

The symptoms of a garlic allergy can be similar to any other food allergy, Dr. Okotie-Eboh. However, the most common symptoms following garlic ingestion, contact with garlic, or exposure to garlic dust are asthma, hives (urticaria), runny nose (rhinitis), or rash (contact dermatitis). Symptoms can also vary from person to person and may appear at different times after you’ve been exposed to them.

Individuals who are allergic to garlic may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Hives, itching or redness of the skin

  • Dermatitis or rash

  • Swelling around the face, lips, throat or mouth

  • Tingling or itching sensation in the mouth

  • Stomach ache

  • Nausea

  • vomit

  • Diarrhea

  • Runny nose (rhinitis)

  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

Dr. Okotie-Eboh also noted that consumption of excessive amounts of raw garlic, especially on an empty stomach, can cause gastrointestinal upset, flatulence (gas), and changes in gut flora. “There have also been reports of allergic dermatitis, burns and blisters from topical application of raw garlic,” she added.

Diagnosing a Garlic Allergy

If you notice persistent symptoms such as a rash, hives, runny nose, or difficulty breathing after eating certain foods, you may have a food allergy. Keeping a food diary and tracking which foods follow any symptoms can help pinpoint specific products you may be allergic to.

You can also contact a healthcare provider for an allergy test, such as a skin prick test or blood test.

Dr. Okotie-Eboh noted that while most allergies are diagnosed in childhood with the introduction of many new foods, it is still possible to develop food sensitivities or allergies later in adulthood. It is important to continue to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you, so that if something changes, such as food sensitivity, you can deal with it proactively.

Related: How Are Allergies Diagnosed?

How do I treat a garlic allergy?

Dr. Okotie-Eboh explained that if you are diagnosed with a garlic allergy, the way you handle it depends on the severity of the reaction. For example, if a person has had a rare anaphylactic reaction to garlic, a doctor can probably prescribe an Epipen to have on hand in case they accidentally ingest or are exposed to garlic.

If a person’s reaction is less severe, managing the allergy may include avoiding garlic, prioritizing food label reading, and making your allergy known when eating out or ordering food for delivery.

Other people with garlic allergies who experience mild allergy symptoms, such as hives or runny nose, may need only over-the-counter allergy medications to relieve symptoms, added Dr. Okotie-Eboh to it.

Patients who are still not sure how severe their allergy is or have other questions about managing their allergy should make an appointment with a healthcare provider to ensure they receive all the information they need to manage their allergy and illness to prevent.

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Being allergic to garlic is more common than most people realize, research shows

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