An immunoglobulin (IgE)-mediated wheat allergy rash can appear as a raised and bumpy rash. It can also cause itchy hives to develop.

A wheat allergy can result in immunoglobulin E (IgE) — immediate — and non-IgE-mediated reactions.

Some people may use wheat allergy rash to refer to an autoimmune response called dermatitis herpetiformis, which can occur alongside celiac disease. This article will instead focus on IgE-mediated wheat allergy reactions.

We will discuss an IgE-mediated wheat allergy rash, other symptoms, its triggers, what to expect with an allergic reaction, other causes of wheat allergy, diagnosis, and treatment options.

If a person has an allergy to wheat or other foods, one of the most common symptoms is hives or urticaria. These are red, raised, and itchy bumps, often with a pale center. Hives can also cause redness, which may be more subtle or not appear on darker skin tones.

Hives can appear anywhere on the body, and itching can range from mild to severe.

Find out more about hives on dark skin.

Hives can change shape, move around the skin, or disappear then reappear over short periods.

Other symptoms of an allergic reaction

If a person is allergic to wheat and consumes food that contains a protein of wheat, they will most likely experience mild to moderate symptoms, including:

Occasionally a person may experience anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction. A person should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms:

On very rare occasions, a person may go into full anaphylactic shock. This reaction occurs when a person’s blood pressure drops sharply, and they become pale, limp, and floppy. A person may lose consciousness and stop breathing.

These symptoms can progress extremely quickly, so a person must seek medical attention, or dial 911, at the very first sign of any symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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A person typically experiences wheat allergy rash symptoms if they consume wheat or a wheat product. Although rare, people may experience symptoms if they touch or inhale wheat or wheat particles.

Symptoms can appear immediately after consuming wheat, but it can take up to 2 hours.

Wheat is one of the more common culprits of food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis (FDEIA). In FDEIA, eating while exercising or eating the food on its own does not trigger an allergic reaction on its own, but the combination of physical exertion and eating the culprit food together can result in anaphylaxis.

A person should avoid foods containing wheat protein they are allergic to. If a person is unsure which protein they are allergic to, they should avoid all wheat and wheat products until they have an accurate diagnosis.

Some of the food types that can trigger a wheat allergy rash include:

  • bread
  • bulgar wheat
  • couscous
  • durum wheat
  • freekeh
  • hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • malt
  • modified wheat starch
  • pasta
  • processed foods
  • rusk
  • semolina
  • wheat bran
  • wheat flour
  • wheat germ
  • whole wheat

Read more about foods to avoid with a wheat allergy.

When a wheat allergy may occur

A person is most likely to develop a wheat allergy during childhood. Approximately 65% of children with a wheat allergy have outgrown it by the time they reach the age of 12.

A history of eczema is the most important risk factor for developing a food allergy, though children without eczema may also develop food allergies. Having multiple allergic family members may also increase the risk of developing a food allergy.

An allergist may ask the individual to keep a food diary. This strategy will help them eliminate food groups to which a person may be allergic.

An allergist may want to conduct various tests to determine the cause of hives. Some of these may include:

Other types of rashes

An allergist will most often be able to distinguish IgE-mediated wheat allergy and other wheat-related disorders, such as celiac disease, nonceliac gluten sensitivity, or FODMAP-type gluten intolerance).

The symptoms and time course do vary.

Read more about the difference between a food allergy and intolerance.

Delayed-type nonallergic autoimmune response, specifically due to gluten, includes celiac disease — dermatitis herpetiformis. While typical symptoms of celiac disease are gastrointestinal, a rash may also accompany celiac disease the symptoms. These may develop 48–72 hours after ingestion of wheat.

A person must receive an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional to help correctly manage their wheat allergy symptoms.

Read more about celiac disease rash.

The most common medications available for hives are antihistamines. A person can also use a cold compress or anti-itch balm to help relieve symptoms.

If the hives are severe, an allergist may recommend a corticosteroid medication such as prednisone to help ease symptoms.

An allergist may prescribe an epinephrine (Epi) injection for any suspected IgE-mediated food allergy, even if hive reactions in the past have not been associated with lips, tongue, or face swelling.

People carry this EpiPen everywhere and only use it in case of rapidly progressing or serious allergic reactions.

Learn more about ways to get rid of hives.

Most of the symptoms associated with a wheat allergy are mild. However, some symptoms can be severe and potentially life threatening.

Aside from a hives rash, a person with a wheat allergy may experience the following:

  • Digestive issues, including:
  • Congestion symptoms during an acute reaction may include:
  • Asthma: A person with a wheat allergy may develop the acute onset of asthma symptoms.
  • Anaphylaxis: A person may experience a severe reaction and should seek urgent medical attention if showing any signs of anaphylaxis.

If a person is allergic to wheat and consumes food containing wheat protein, they will most likely experience mild to moderate symptoms of hives.

People can avoid a wheat allergy rash by following a wheat-free diet or taking suitable treatments such as antihistamines or steroids.

A person should seek a proper diagnosis to manage their symptoms correctly.