Oat Allergy

Can You Be Allergic to Oats?

What is Oat?

Oats are a cereal grain commonly consumed in oatmeal form or by itself mixed with other foods like nuts, fruits, cookies, and more. They contain a protein called avenin and are often consumed by people of all ages. Attention in being allergic to oats is rising as more people transition to a gluten-free diet. 

 

Avenin

Avenin is a protein that is similar to gluten; many people get it mixed up due to its similar chemical structure. This protein is found primarily in oats and can cause the same or similar immune reaction that it has from gluten.

 

Gluten

While gluten is not in oats, avenin and gluten are often exposed together when in processing facilities. Even the tiniest bit can cause a reaction in infants. The structures of both gluten and avenin can cause an immune allergic reaction. 

 

Those who initially believe it was an allergic reaction to avenin could actually be a reaction to gluten and vice versa. Many are also known to have a reaction due to the fiber from just an increased consumption of oats. “Gluten free” oats can still contain avenin which may cause a reaction to you or your baby. 

 

Those with coeliac disease are known to react with avenin, so consume oats wisely.

 

Symptoms of Oat Allergy:

This specific allergy can appear in all ages from infant to adult but is not common. Mild to severe immediate symptoms include:

  • Blotches

  • Red, itchy skin

  • Runny or congested nose

  • Scratchy throat

  • Itchy eyes

  • Stomach pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Anaphylaxis   

 

If you are near anaphylactic shock, look out for the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing

  • Swollen tongue or throat making it difficult to breathe 

  • Decrease in blood pressure

  • Dizziness or nausea

  • Unconsciousness

 

Keep an eye out if you or your child continuously come in contact with oats and experience at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea

  • Stomach inflammation or irritation

  • Fatigue 

 

Test and Confirm:

If any symptoms occur after coming in contact with oats, schedule to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. They may perform tests to exactly pinpoint what you or your child is allergic to. The non-painful scratch test has the allergen placed in your skin for about a half hour. A patch test is done where patches containing the allergen will stay for a few days to determine a reaction. There is also the oral food test that should only be done in a trusted established facility to monitor the amounts of oats the patient eats. All these tests can confirm your oat allergy and get you the necessary treatments to avoid a future allergic reaction.

 

How to Avoid Future Reactions:

With any allergic reaction, it’s best to avoid the trigger that is causing your skin or body to break out. You may need to avoid certain products.

 

Limit or Avoid These Foods:

  • Oatmeal

  • Granola

  • Oat milk

  • Oat cookies

  • Oat bread

  • Cereal

 

Be sure to check ingredients from different muffins, cakes, and cookies to be sure there are no oats contained.

 

The beauty industry also has cosmetics and skincare that contain oat proteins. These include certain moisturizers, creams, or baths. Your baby’s atopic dermatitis can result in a reaction due to topical appliance with oat-based products. A 2007 study found high sensitivity to oats from infants who had atopic dermatitis. In contrast, another 2012 study from the Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology found that consumers who collectively used 445,820 products that contained oats did not have any allergies. The reaction sensitivity varies greatly between others.

 

Confirm your suspicions of a possible allergy to oats with your doctor. If a severe reaction occurs, call 911 or your respective emergency hotline immediately. 

 

Alternatives:

Those who have a confirmed oat allergy can replace it with other healthy grains like corn, rice, and polenta.

 

View our blog to learn more and gain suspicion on whether you may be allergic to oats, or more specifically, avenin. Reach out to your allergist for solid and direct testing and results. If the results of oats come back negative, you may be allergic or have intolerance to gluten. Take necessary precautions, and take care of your body!

Image by Kai Wenzel