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