Cinnamon is a wonderful, aromatic and a versatile spice with many health benefits and medicinal properties. Its ability to manage, treat and heal various diseases and ailments makes it a ‘super-food’. This spice is harvested from the bark of the trees, which are native to Southeast Asia, China and India. But this herb is not fit for everyone’s consumption. People who are allergic to cinnamon must stay away from food preparations containing cinnamon. Such individuals may experience adverse health reactions after consuming or touching cinnamon.
Causes of Cinnamon Allergy
Spice allergies are hard to detect, and they often go undiagnosed. Eating, smelling or even touching this spice can trigger an allergic response in sensitive individuals. Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic alcohol are compounds present in cinnamon, which are responsible for its fragrance. Both compounds are responsible for allergic contact dermatitis in hypersensitive individuals. Cinnamaldehyde is a more potent skin sensitizer than cinnamic alcohol.
In individuals who are allergic to cinnamon, the body’s immune system reacts with defense mechanism when exposed to cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon. The body identifies cinnamaldehyde as an allergen and produces antibodies against it. The mast cells release ‘histamine’, a substance that triggers an allergic response in the body.
Allergies are common among babies because they have a weak immune system. Exposure to cinnamon can cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation in babies. Such an allergic reaction is usually topical in babies and allergic symptoms can appear within minutes after the skin is exposed to cinnamon.
Symptoms of Cinnamon Allergy
Symptoms are triggered when cinnamon is consumed or when it comes in direct contact with the skin. Smelling this aromatic herb can also cause symptoms.
When cinnamon is eaten as a part of a food preparation, it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, like:
- Stomach pain or abdominal discomfort
- Diarrhea or loose stools
It is an allergic skin reaction, which takes place when a person allergic to cinnamon is exposed to it. It causes:
- Skin inflammation
If a person allergic to cinnamon comes in contact with cinnamon, it leads to respiratory symptoms, like:
- Nose running
- Watery eyes
- Itching of the eyes
- Itching of the throat
- Difficulty in breathing
It is a condition in which, inflammation of the oral mucosa is caused by the allergen. This causes:
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Excess salivation
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition, which requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid pulse
- Drop in the blood pressure level
- Difficulty in breathing (1)
Diagnosis and Tests of Cinnamon Allergy
A detailed food history and dietary recall will help the doctor in diagnosing food allergy. Allergy to spices is difficult to detect.
If you have reactions to multiple foods, there are greater chances of having an allergy to any spice.
If adverse reactions take place after eating restaurant food or packaged foods, but if the same food is consumed, which is cooked at home and there are no reactions, then one should get themselves checked for spice allergies.
Inform the doctor if you have any other food allergy or if any of your family member is allergic to cinnamon.
Describing your symptoms in detail will further put some light on your case.
Keep a record of foods and beverages that trigger symptoms.
Skin Prick Test:
This test helps in diagnosing cinnamon allergy easily. During this test, your allergist pricks your skin with the help of a lancet. The cinnamon allergen is applied at the site of the prick. If you are allergic to cinnamon, your skin will turn red or a bump may appear because the body produces antibodies against the allergen. Your allergist will rule out the allergy if there are no skin changes present.
Skin Patch Test:
This test can be done to confirm or rule out cinnamon allergy in children as well as adults. In this test, cinnamon allergen is applied at the back of an individual, in a sealed patch for 48 hours. A positive result is confirmed by the presence of blisters, ulcers, redness, rashes or inflamed skin.
Allergy Blood Test:
This blood test measures immunoglobulin E, an antibody produced by the immune system during an allergy. If the level of immunoglobulin E is high, it indicates that a person is allergic.
- Individuals with a family history of cinnamon allergy
- History of food allergy in the past, especially during childhood
- Having any other type of food allergy
- Women who use more of beauty products are at a greater risk because cinnamon is a part of many such products
Treatment of Cinnamon Allergy
Anti-Histamines: Anti-histamines are drugs that can be used to treat mild symptoms of allergy. These drugs suppress the action of histamine and relieve symptoms.
Epinephrine Auto-Injector: An epinephrine auto-injector is prescribed by the doctor or an allergist. It should be used during anaphylaxis or adverse allergic reactions.
- The first and the most important step to prevent cinnamon allergy is to avoid the intake of cinnamon completely
- Read the food label carefully before purchasing any food product. Look out for cinnamon in the ingredient list and avoid purchasing it if any food product contains cinnamon
- While eating out at a restaurant, inform the staff about your allergy. Ask them not to use cinnamon in your food preparation
- Cinnamon oil is used for aromatherapy and massages. Do not opt for such options.
- Cinnamon and cinnamon oil are also a part of lipsticks and face packs. Be careful before purchasing any such beauty products.
- Inform the school teacher if your child is allergic to cinnamon.
- Cinnamon is added to certain toothpastes, candies and chewing gums because it has a pleasant flavor. Avoid using such products
List of Foods to Avoid
Here is a list of foods to avoid if you are allergic to cinnamon:
- Chewing gums
- Breakfast cereals
- Energy bars
- Cinnamon-flavored tea
- Cinnamon-flavored coffee
- Pumpkin spice mix