Spice Allergy

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Spice allergies occur in up to 2 percent of the population. The most problematic spices for allergy sufferers are celery, garlic, cinnamon, sesame, tumeric, onion, and mustard. Mustard allergy is the most common among the spice allergies. Black pepper and vanilla have also been reported to cause an allergic reaction.

True spice allergies occur because of a certain protein they contain; however, allergies can occur because of high cross-reactivity. This means that if you’re allergic to nuts or tree pollen, you could also be allergic to certain spices. For instance, there is high cross-reactivity between mustard and tree nuts. Symptoms of these types of allergies are usually delayed.

Spice Allergy Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Bloating
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis

Because of the delayed response to some spices, it’s hard to tell whether the spice caused the reaction or the food on which it was applied.

Diagnosingng A Spice Allergy

Spice allergies are under-diagnosed because of the lack of reliable tests for them. Since spices are usually cooked in food and not eaten alone, it’s hard to pinpoint the cause of the allergy. We recommend keeping a food journal and writing down any symptoms that occur after eating a certain food. We can then look at the ingredient list of that food and try to narrow down the list of allergens.

You should not attempt to eat spices you wouldn’t normally eat to diagnose yourself. This is extremely dangerous and could result in a severe allergic reaction.

Spice Allergy Treatment

Since food allergies can bring on severe reactions, an allergist will prescribe an epinephrine auto injector. Mild symptoms will subside on their own, but there are over-the-counter allergy medications to help with discomfort. For more treatment options, contact an allergist.


If you believe you have a spice allergy, call the allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. We accept same-day appointments and welcome walk-ins to get your allergies diagnosed and treated fast. For more information on spice allergies, call (212) 686-4448 to make an appointment.