A Guide to Managing an Oat Allergy

If you suspect that you may have an oat allergy, it is a good idea to learn a little background information about this condition. Oats are very healthy grains that have a lot of benefits to offer—unless you’re allergic to them. An oat allergy, commonly referred to as “oat sensitivity”, is a condition in which a person’s body is intolerant of a protein found in oats called avena sativa. A person with this allergy is likely to experience an allergic reaction upon ingestion of oats as well as inhaling the dust-like powder that comes off of the oats.

An oat allergy is not to be confused with celiac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten. In fact, most people who suffer from celiac disease are not allergic to oats at all and rely upon them as a substitution for wheat and other gluten-based products. That being said, a person with celiac disease may experience a minor allergic response to oats due to farming and processing techniques. Sometimes farmers will rotate their crops, planting oats on the same patch of land that was once used to grow barley or wheat. This can, in a sense, contaminate the present oat crop causing an allergic reaction in someone who has gluten intolerance. Processing oats can produce the same results if they are harvested and processed by machinery that also processes gluten-based crops. These are factors that can make determining the source of a food allergy quite difficult.

Allergic reactions differ from person to person, therefore there is no set guide of symptoms that will apply to everyone. Some people experience mild symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, headache, or shortness of breath. Others may experience a more severe reaction such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and gas or bloating. As with other food allergies, there is the possibility of developing hives or rash-like patches on the skin or of the skin becoming quite irritated and itchy. Symptoms can crop up immediately after eating oats or as late as two days after consuming oats. Although an oat allergy is quite rare, what’s even rarer—yet still possible—is the chance of someone having an anaphylactic response. This encompasses a variety of very severe symptoms, such as tightening of the airway making it hard to breathe, irritation of the skin and of the intestinal organs, and even the alteration of a person’s heartbeat. This is sometimes referred to anaphylactic shock and should be treated as an emergency situation, as it could very well lead to death if not treated promptly and properly.

The only way to determine whether you are genuinely allergic to oats is to perform a system of trial and error. If you have celiac disease, you may have a more difficult time discerning whether you are allergic to oats in addition to the usual gluten products, as per the reasons mentioned earlier in the article. However, if you do not suffer from celiac disease, you may have an easier time of the deduction process. The first step will be to remove all oat-containing products from your kitchen and your diet. You don’t even want to be able to accidently come into contact with oats during this test period. Throughout a period of two weeks without oat products, you should have a noticeable difference in health. If you like you can keep a log of your diet, symptoms (or lack thereof), and overall health throughout the test period so that you can look back on the test with a clearer view of the situation. If you experience symptoms of an allergic response during this oat-free time, it is quite likely that you are allergic to another type of food (perhaps milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, or soya). If you remain reaction-free during this period or experience a noticeable increase in your health, then it’s probably safe to say that you do suffer from an oat allergy.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to oats, provided it is not an anaphylactic response, should subside on their own. Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl may be helpful in getting rid of allergy symptoms, but is usually not necessary. Speak with your doctor to confirm your allergy. He or she may choose to perform an allergy test, but it can be immensely helpful in confirming the diagnosis if you can provide your doctor with details of your two-week test experience.




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