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Finding Hidden Food Allergens

By HERWriter
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Food Allergies related image Photo: Getty Images

If you have a food allergy, you already know you need to avoid that food. But do you know about other, non-food items that might be hiding your allergen? Here are a few of the things you might need to avoid.

Medications and Vitamins – Most over-the-counter medications and supplements include ingredient lists. But allergens may be hiding in drug “binding” and inactive ingredients. Lactose and starch, including corn, potato, rice, or wheat starch, may be found in binding agents. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients in your prescription medications. In addition, glucosamine and some calcium that is listed as coral calcium may contain oyster shells and other shellfish.

Toothpaste – Most major brands of toothpaste are probably safe. But if you are allergic to fruits including citrus and strawberries, watch out for all-natural toothpastes including some that are fluoride-free. Many of these natural toothpastes include natural fruit extracts.

Fruit and vegetable rinse – Products that are used to clean the skins of fresh fruits and vegetables, including some versions of the FIT fruit and vegetable rinse, may contain grapefruit oil and starch. This starch may come from corn, potatoes, rice, or wheat.

Lotions and creams – Many hand and body lotions use ingredients for moisture and scent that may be allergens. Coconut, sesame, and tree nut oils are commonly used in lotions. If you have peanut allergy, stay away from lotions containing “arachis oil”. Grains including wheat, oats, and barley extracts are found in some lotions. And citrus fruit oils and extracts are often included for scent.

Makeup – Some makeup uses oils including sesame oil as a softening agent. Others include grains including wheat and oat flour in powdered makeup such as pressed powder. And some foundations include soy protein in the formula.

Hair products – Shampoos, conditioners, and hair dyes often include wheat either in the form of wheat germ or as hydrolyzed wheat protein. Other commonly used allergens include citrus oils, mushroom oil, almond and other tree nut oils, and soy protein.

Glues – Many glues and adhesives contain wheat. Be careful around stamps and envelopes since confirming the ingredients in those adhesives is difficult. Whenever possible, chose self-stick stamps and envelopes to avoid licking the adhesive.

You may want to create a master list of product categories that you use to help keep track of which products and brands are safe or are not safe because they contain known allergens.

About.com: Food Allergies

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EmpowHER Guest

corn is particularly nasty as it is found in literally hundreds of compounds used in the manufacturing or stabilizing processes. Some examples: toothpaste often contains sorbitol, shampoo and conditioners often contain citric acid, adhesives are all corny (to my knowledge), lotions often contain glycerine and citric acid, deodorant often have propylene glycol which can be corn derived ... everything on the list above should be closely examined by anyone allergic to or shopping for someone who is allergic to corn.

October 29, 2010 - 9:25am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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