Symptoms, triggers, what to avoid
Salicylates are natural chemicals produced by plants to protect them against disease and environmental stress. They are present in many foods, cosmetics and medicines, such as aspirin.
Although salicylates are generally well tolerated, they can cause significant reactions in people with allergies.
This article will review the symptoms and causes of a salicylate allergy. He will also discuss testing, treatment, and foods to avoid.
What is a salicylate allergy?
A salicylate allergy, sometimes incorrectly called salicylate intolerance, is a reaction that occurs when a person comes into contact with salicylates.
Salicylate allergies can be difficult to diagnose because salicylates are found in a wide variety of food and non-food products.
Medications such as Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) and aspirin which contain high amounts of synthetic salicylates appear to be closely linked to many salicylate allergies and intolerances.
It is important to note that allergies and intolerances to salicylates are different. Although an allergy to salicylates is a immune system a reaction which can be serious, a salicylate intolerance refers to the way the product is broken down in your system and can cause gastrointestinal effects.
Although there is some data to suggest that foods high in salicylates may also cause a reaction, very little research confirms this.
Can a person sensitive or allergic to aspirin consume salicylates in food?
Many aspirin-sensitive people can eat foods containing salicylates without difficulty. This is because aspirin contains a molecule called the acetyl group that natural salicylic acid does not have.
Symptoms of a salicylate allergy can include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- stomach cramps
- Runny nose
- To sneeze
- To cough
- Skin color changes
Severe reactions can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
The cause of salicylic allergies remains unknown. However, true allergic reactions occur when the immune system overreacts to harmless substances called allergens.
When an allergic person comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to attack the allergen. These antibodies then travel to the cells which release a number of chemicals, triggering an allergic reaction.
Having asthma or a family history of allergies puts you at a higher risk of developing allergies, but the reasons why some people develop drug allergies and others do not are not well understood.
People with chronic rhinosinusitis may also experience an increase in symptoms after consuming products potentially high in salicylates.
What to avoid
If you have a salicylates allergy, ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid certain foods, products, and ingredients that contain salicylates.
List of foods
Every person allergic to salicylates is different. Avoiding all salicylate-containing foods is difficult and may not be necessary – you may be able to tolerate and enjoy them. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should eliminate foods containing salicylates from your diet, which may include:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumber, mushrooms, radish, eggplant and peppers.
- Fruit: Blueberries, avocado, prunes, grapefruit, strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries, figs, kiwis and apples,
- Herbs and spices: Cayenne, cinnamon, clove, thyme, rosemary, paprika, curry powder, cumin, oregano and turmeric.
- Beverages: Tea, wine, rum, beer, orange juice, apple cider, sherry and coffee.
- Seasoning: Soy sauce, jellies and jams, vinegar, tomato sauce, tomato paste and honey.
- Other Food Sources: Gelatin, ice cream, mints, licorice, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, certain cheeses, chewing gum, pickles, water chestnuts and olives.
Since salicylates can be absorbed through the skin, ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid certain products containing salicylates.
- Perfumes and scents
- Shampoos and conditioner
- Shaving cream
- Alka Seltzer
- Solar cream
- Beauty products
List of products containing salicylate
To make sure you don’t get accidentally exposed, you should carefully read the ingredient labels of your products that may contain salicylate.
Ingredients containing salicylate include:
- Acetylsalicylic acid
- Fruit flavors
- Food coloring
- Benzyl salicylate
- Green mint
- Phenylethyl salicylate
- Salicylic acid
- Magnesium salicylate
- Sodium salicylate
How to Test for Salicylate Allergy
Currently, there is no reliable test to diagnose salicylate allergy. However, some allergy tests methods can help rule out an allergy to salicylates.
For example, your health care provider, including an allergist (a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of allergies), may perform an exposure or provocation test. In this test, you are exposed to small amounts of salicylic acid and monitored until an allergic reaction occurs or is ruled out.
An allergist may ask you for your detailed medical history and ask you to keep a food diary Diagnose an allergy to salicylated foods.
If an allergy is suspected, you may be asked to perform an oral food challenge, which involves eating small amounts of food containing the allergen under close medical supervision.
How to Treat a Salicylate Allergy
Allergy treatment depends on several factors, including the results of your allergy tests and the severity of your symptoms.
The most effective treatment for a salicylate allergy is to avoid salicylate. However, it is not easy due to its widespread use in foods, beauty products and medicines.
Food allergic reactions that produce minor symptoms often go away on their own. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines can be taken to treat mild symptoms.
Types of antihistamines include:
For severe reactions, such as difficulty breathing or hives that develop all over your body, you should use a epinephrine injection (EpiPen), which is the only effective treatment for anaphylaxis. It should be administered within minutes of the onset of severe symptoms.
Salicylates are found in a wide range of foods, beauty products, and medications. Although they are considered safe and generally well tolerated, some people may be sensitive or allergic to them.
A person with a true salicylate allergy may be advised to avoid foods and non-food items containing high amounts of salicylates. This decision should be made after talking to your doctor or allergist.
At present, very little is known about an allergy to salicylates. Its diagnosis is often difficult to make. If you think you have a salicylates allergy, it’s important to speak with your health care provider for a proper diagnosis.
A word from Verywell
Salicylates are found in many foods and other products. For this reason, it can be difficult to manage an allergy. What may trigger one person may not trigger another. If you have a salicylate allergy, it’s a good idea to keep antihistamines and an EpiPen on hand. It’s also important to work closely with your healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What foods are high in salicylates?
Foods high in salicylates include broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, blueberries, avocados, pine nuts, coffee, and nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant and bell peppers.
What are the side effects of salicylate?
In most people, salicylate does not cause any harmful side effects. However, people allergic or sensitive to salicylate may experience asthma-like symptoms, nasal congestion, itching, rash, runny nose, or hives.
Can you overcome a salicylate allergy?
Like most allergies, there is no cure for a true salicylate allergy. The best way to treat it is to avoid salicylates. Effective treatments are available to control the symptoms.