Corn allergy is one of the most uncommon types of food allergies, but it can cause a severe response from the body when someone gets it. A person may develop mild to severe corn allergy symptoms when the immune system becomes overly sensitized to the components of corn. The immune system reacts mistakenly over the entrance of corn or corn-derived products.
Corn allergy reaction is very rare and can be immensely challenging to diagnose through a blood test or standard skin test. It is not easy to differentiate corn allergy from other allergies like grass, pollen, seeds, or other grain allergies. Prevention is the best way to deal with a corn allergy, treatment of epinephrine injection for anaphylaxis can be effective.
This piece of writing will discuss everything in detail about corn allergy, including incidence, possible causes, symptoms, different prevention tips, and possible treatment.
How common is corn allergy?
It’s hard to tell how prevalent corn allergy is because it is very close to other food allergies. However, according to an estimation, corn allergy may affect almost one to six percent of the global population. Since many products (eatables and non-eatables) contain corn, minor corn allergy symptoms usually go unnoticed.
Causes of Corn Allergy
Unlike other forms of food allergies, the exact cause of corn allergy is still a puzzle. However, a combination of genetic factors, epigenetic factors, environmental factors, and genetics-environment interaction may be responsible.
Corn is a very common cereal grain, mainly containing a protein called “zein.” Zein is believed to be the lead-role villain. Your body reacts differently to this protein when the immune system mistakenly recognizes it as a foreign body and starts releasing immunoglobulin, antibodies to deal with the protein. IgE stimulates various cells in the immune system and forces them to secrete different substances like histamines. These histamines are usually responsible for various symptoms, including corn allergy skin rash.
Consumption of both cooked and raw corn can cause allergic reactions. Also, food products prepared with corn can be harmful to people with a corn allergy. Zein is not used in all products, but it can be a herculean task to find when it is present.
Using or touching intravenous fluids or surgical gloves containing corn particles can be troublesome. People with corn allergy may also react alienly to cornstarch, corn pollen, and grass pollen, usually with asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms.
People living with eczema, asthma, hay fever, hives, or other food allergies are believed to be at higher risk of getting affected with a corn allergy. A family history of allergy may also be linked with higher risk, particularly if a sibling has it.
Signs and Symptoms of Corn Allergy
There can be surprisingly different forms of a corn allergy. And the reaction to corn allergy may also vary according to different people and the exact trigger(s). For some, the reaction may be manageable by eliminating the corn products. However, some people may find it severe and may require proper medical attention. Although rare, corn allergy can be fatal as well.
Corn allergy symptoms are usually visible after a few minutes or a couple of hours after consuming or getting exposed to corn products. Some common symptoms are:
- Itchiness or tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of tongue, mouth, lips, face, or other body parts.
- Nasal congestion causing difficulty breathing and wheezing.
- Digestive troubles like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, etc.
- Corn allergy skin rash
- Abdominal pain
- Repetitive cough
Severe Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) May Cause Symptoms Like:
- Blueness or paleness of skin
- Irregular and rapid pulse
- Swelling of the air passages and throat causing difficult breathing
- Hoarseness of voice
- A sense of approaching doom
Diagnosis and Testing
Correct diagnosis of corn allergy is very important, and it can play a critical role in proper treatment. Results of a corn allergy test can have a massive importance in deciding what an allergic person should eat every day. However, the diagnosis of a corn allergy is not very easy.
Testing corn allergy through blood and skin tests may not be accurate, as false-positive tests may also occur. However, such positive results increase the chances of a person being at risk of getting a corn allergy. The doctors usually opt for further investigations to ensure a correct diagnosis.
A detailed, careful history of the patient can be the most reliable indicator of the allergy. It will clarify whether a person gets allergic reactions after consuming corns of corn-derived products. However, evaluating the history can be a herculean task itself.
Diagnosis of Corn Allergy is Very Difficult. Why?
- There is not a specific corn allergy test as yet.
- A vast number of foods contain different amounts.
- Signs and symptoms of corn allergy are not specific, as similar skin reactions or even other reactions from the body may be noted in a wide range of other allergies.
How Can You Track Corn Allergy with Mild Symptoms?
Tracking the corn allergy with the help of mild symptoms can go a long way to determine whether you are allergic to corn. Keeping a note of everything you eat and abnormal signs and symptoms for a few weeks can be very helpful. You can keep a food diary to note down everything you eat with the symptoms you experience (if any).
An elimization diet can also be very effective. With this, you will have to restrict the foods you eat quite often and then add the individual foods slowly and progressively to your diet. It will be very helpful to track the reaction from a specific food.
Whether you go with the tracking symptoms through a food diary or elimination diet, you need to be very determined to find the culprit. Although a bit challenging, but there can’t be a better corn allergy test than these two methods.
If an allergy from corn is suspected, a food challenge (consuming corn) can confirm the diagnosis. But you should try this only under proper medical supervision. Consulting a food allergy specialist to track your foods and symptoms will be immensely helpful. And with that, you will be able to avoid the anaphylaxis of corn allergy.
Corn Allergy Treatment
Symptomatic treatment is usually effective for mild symptoms. However, for anaphylactic reactions, epinephrine is currently the only treatment available. Depending on the condition, the patient may require immediate medical attention in an emergency room. If medical assistance is not available on time, first aid for anaphylaxis must be provided to the patient.
Corn Allergy: What to Avoid?
Avoiding corn must be the biggest priority for corn-allergic subjects. However, there are a plethora of hidden sources of corn, especially in a typical American diet. And continuous exposure to corn particles with a lack of clear labeling on food products can only make the matter worse.
For best results, you would want to work with a dietitian or nutritionist to navigate the food labels and vocabulary used properly. With that, you can successfully track the presence of corn or its essence in a product. Your life will not be easy, even if you get familiar with different corn products because you may have to eat with your friends, different families, at restaurants, etc.
At restaurants, you should not feel hesitant while asking the chef about the ingredients used for meals. You must have a detailed conversation not about the ingredients but also the process through which they will prepare your food.
Follow a Lifestyle and Diet Free from Corn
You should definitely stay away from certain foods to avoid worsening of corn allergy symptoms. However, some other corn-based ingredients may or may not be good for your kitchen’s bucket list.
Here is a list of foods you should completely avoid. Please understand that this is not an exhaustive list, and you must work with an allergist as well as a dietitian to manage your symptoms and eliminate corn-based foods and ingredients.
Foods That Are Always or Often Made with Corn
- Corn fritters
- Breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes)
- Corn tortillas
- Corn oil, vegetable oil
- Corn chips, tortilla chips
- Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Corn sugars (glucose, sorbitol, xylitol, inositol, sodium erythorbate, dextrose, dextrin, maltodextrin, fructose, Dyno, Cerelose, Puretose, Sweetose)
Foods that May Contain Corn-Based Ingredients
You should be cautious with these foods containing different corn-derived products like corn syrup, cornstarch, corn oil, etc. Please notice that almost 75 percent of all processed foods contain some quantity of corn-derived products.
- White distilled vinegar
- Monosodium glutamate
- Baking powder, powdered sugar, cake yeast, and bleached flour
- Gelatin capsules
- Vanilla extract
- Malt syrup, modified food starch, caramel, cellulose, xantham gum
- Lemonade mixes
- Instant coffees
- Jams and jellies
- Candies and chewing gums
- Ketchup and mustard (prepared)
- Gravy (thickened with cornstarch, for instance)
- Salad dressings and sauces
- Canned or frozen fruits sweetened with corn syrup
- Dates and other fruit confections
- Ice creams, sherbets
- Chocolate milk, milkshakes, soy milk, eggnog, yogurt
- American wines, whiskey, gin, beer, ale
- Carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola, 7-Up, and others
- Bread dusted with cornmeal
- Graham crackers
- Baking mixes, pancakes (certain mixes), and pancake syrups
- English muffins
- Tacos and tamales
- Fish sticks
- Fried potatoes or fried rice (if corn oil is used)
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Canned vegetables, creamed vegetables
- Pork and beans
- Vegetable commercial soups and chili
- Peanut butter
- Various meats (cold cuts such as bologna, ham, hot dogs, sausages, bacon)
- Breaded or fried foods
- Cheese and cheese spreads
- Chop suey and chow mein
Corn allergy reaction is not very common and can cause severe problems if not given proper attention or unnoticed. Hopefully, you have got some valuable information about corn allergies. Please help yourself as well as someone you know who has any of the symptoms mentioned above. Working closely with a dietitian and allergist is advised for a correct diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.