What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is a protein that forms when an animal’s skin or connective tissue is boiled. It’s used in many processed foods, soft drinks, and medications. People that are sensitive to many proteins can develop a gelatin allergy. An allergy to gelatin is a common cause of allergic reactions to vaccines such as flu shots, that contain pig gelatin as a stabilizer. Some drug manufacturers also use gelatin-based formulas for joint strength and repair.
Symptoms of a gelatin allergy include:
- Hives or rash
- Tingly or itchy mouth
- Swelling of the lip, tongue, throat, or face
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing or other allergic asthma symptoms
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience these symptoms after consuming gelatin, it’s best to avoid the protein.
Products You Should Avoid That May Contain Gelatin
- Ice Cream
- Soft Drinks
- Instant Puddings
- Some Cereals
- Personal Hygiene Products
- Some Candies
- Peanuts, such as Planters
- Gel Cap Medications & Flu Shots
Some packaged products don’t label gelatin. It is often referred to as “hydrolyzed animal protein.” Other hidden names for gelatin include collagen hydrolysate, denatured collagen, and gelatina. Look out for these names when buying new products.
Diagnosing Gelatin Allergy
To diagnose a gelatin allergy, visit an allergist for an allergy test. An intradermal allergy test is most useful in diagnosing a gelatin allergy. During this test, an allergist will inject a small about of gelatin under the skin and watch for a reaction. Intradermal testing is more sensitive to than a skin prick test, so it will be more accurate in detecting the allergy. To reduce the chance of a false result, you will be asked to stop taking antihistamines and other medications 48 hours before the allergy test.
Gelatin Allergy Treatment
There is no cure for gelatin allergies, but there are ways to minimize symptoms. Try antihistamines to help itching and swelling in your face. For asthma related symptoms, a doctor can prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid.
While it’s rare for gelatin allergies to cause anaphylaxis, some cases have been reported. Ask your doctor about an epinephrine injection if your allergy is severe. If an epinephrine injection is necessary, be sure to carry your Epipen or Auvi-Q with you at all times.
Alternatives To Gelatin
There are many alternatives to gelatin if you are allergic to it. First, seek products labeled as truly vegan that do not contain any animal proteins. Also, some ingredients to replace gelatin while cooking are:
- Agar Agar
- Vegetable Gums
An alternative to the flu shot is the flu nasal spray. It’s just as effective and doesn’t contain gelatin. For other medications, opt for pills that are not coated in gel.
For a gelatin allergy diagnosis, call the allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. We have access to the latest allergy testing and treatment, and we offer seven convenient allergy and sinus clinics throughout Manhattan and Queens. Our board certified allergists are available six days a week to treat your allergies, asthma, and sinus problems. Call (212) 686-4448 to book your appointment today!