Garlic Allergy

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Garlic, many people possess fondness towards it due to its amazing flavor that enhances both the taste as well as aroma of the food. Moreover, garlic is known for its miraculous health benefits. Some people irrespective of their fondness adopt weird reactions against garlic when their skin comes in contact with garlic. They inhale garlic dust or ingest garlic in raw form (mainly).

What is garlic allergy?

Garlic allergy is mainly a type of contact dermatitis or inflamed skin condition. Allergic reactions occurring due to ingestion of garlic is again an immune system response like most other food allergies. It is not a commonly found food allergy.

Causes of garlic allergy

Garlic allergy, as an exception to the usual food allergies not only occurs when it is consumed but also occurs when handled closely with bare hands or inhaled. It is an outcome of the malfunctioning of immune system when the proteins found in garlic are mistakenly recognized as foreign pathogens and the immune system subsequently tries to attack them and eliminate them from the body. This entire immune system attack is manifested with the help of antibody production and engulfing of the antigenic particles by the antibodies. This triggers the release of histamines and other harmful chemicals in the body that give rise to allergic reactions.

Symptoms of garlic allergy

Garlic allergy primarily causes symptoms that are associated with skin but majority patients are unaware that garlic allergy symptoms can be both gastro-intestinal as well as respiratory disorders. The varied symptoms include the following:

  1. Eczema
  2. Skin inflammation or inflammatory disorders of skin
  3. Itchiness in skin
  4. Redness and swelling of skin
  5. Swelling of face and mouth coupled with flushing
  6. Abdominal cramps
  7. Nausea or vomiting
  8. Diarrhea or constipation
  9. Bloating
  10. Gas
  11. Runny or stuffy nose
  12. Slight swelling in the nasal passage

Garlic allergy symptoms can bring about complications that may even lead to death.

Diagnosis

The simplest form of diagnosis is to put the individual with suspected allergy on an elimination diet for a couple of weeks and monitor for the onset of signs and symptoms. If the symptoms persist, the individual is certainly not a victim of garlic allergy and if the symptoms subside, it is a vivid case of garlic allergy. This method of diagnosis can be chosen at a very primary level and can be performed by oneself without an expert help.

If the result is not clear, one can seek the help of a formal diagnostic center. The experts perform skin prick tests wherein the skin is pricked with the help of a needle and a small amount of garlic extract is placed on the pricked skin to observe how exactly the skin reacts to the allergen. In severe cases, experts opt for blood tests for a detailed diagnosis.

Risk factors

Factors that put individuals at risk of having garlic allergy are plenty. Each is discussed in detail:

Atopic dermatitis

A patient of atopic dermatitis already has a sensitive skin that may easily react to garlic particles. Therefore, atopic dermatitis enhances the likeliness to develop allergy against garlic.

Genetics

If garlic or any other food allergy persists in the family, it becomes a risky affair for the other members of the family because the chances of inheriting the same remain at peak.

Frequency of contact

Chefs or people who spend time more time in the kitchen frequently come in contact with garlic on a regular basis, thus they are more susceptible to garlic allergy.

Complications

Although the signs and symptoms of garlic allergy might not seem to be too complicated because they can be managed effectively with the help of over-the-counter anti-histamine drugs yet the possible complications should not be ignored. They arise from the mild stages only:

Skin rashes

This symptom is usually categorized as mild with small pinkish dots all over the body that are itchy in nature and pretty hot to touch. These rashes when turn into severe form, get transformed into hives and the patients observe swollen, red bumps which may later form large, red patches known as plaques coupled with inflammation. The skin turns red paired with swelling and bloating. In such cases, patient might face difficulty to breathe and subsequently faint.

Digestion disorder

Right after ingesting garlic, patients might have a feeling of nausea coupled with vomiting and diarrhea. But these minor symptoms can be deadly if dehydration and flatulence are produced in the body.

Respiratory disorder

Rhinitis, a mild symptom of garlic allergy can be fatal if turns into severe anaphylaxis involving the constriction of the airways leading to troubled breathing followed by abrupt drop in blood pressure, numbness of limbs and extreme dizziness.

Allergies associated with garlic allergy

Onion allergy is supposedly associated with garlic allergy due to the similarity in proteins found in both. It is observed quite often that a person suffering from garlic allergy also does suffer from onion allergy because their immune system reacts against the proteins that are almost alike. [1]

Treatment of garlic allergy

The foremost way to treat garlic allergy is to be on a diet that is devoid of garlic. Skin reactions can be treated with the help of hydrocortisone; it helps in reducing the itchiness and inflammation of skin. Mild to moderate signs and symptoms are basically treated with over-the-counter anti-histamines. When the symptoms are severe, doctors prescribe steroids and self-injectable epinephrine to manage anaphylaxis effectively. Auto-injectors are advised to be carried along to prevent people from anaphylactic shock. For people prone to anaphylaxis, a trip to the emergency medical care is mandatory.

Preventive Diet and caution

Avoiding garlic completely is a challenging task especially while dining out. Almost every dish has garlic as an essential ingredient including sauces and pizzas. The wisest way out is to cook food at home. Those who cannot avoid eating out, they may ask the concerned person about the ingredients involved in a dish before placing their order at a restaurant. Reading the labels while purchasing foodstuffs and contacting the manufacturer directly in case of any doubts involved would save them from the disgrace and discomfort of garlic allergy.

References

  1. Onion Side Effects
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