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Spices Hard to Avoid for Those with Allergies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANAHEIM, Calif.) -- You may only think of spices as being ingredients in foods.  But they are commonly found in other products -- such as cosmetics, fragrances and toothpastes -- according to allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).  

And for the 2 to 3 percent of people worldwide who are allergic to spices, that could make them almost impossible to avoid.

Spice allergy is responsible for about 2 percent of food allergies and is often under-diagnosed due to a lack of reliable allergy testing for particular spices or unawareness of exposure.

“While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the American diet and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy,” allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., the former president of the ACAAI, said Thursday at the college's Annual Scientific Meeting.  “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen.  This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

The most common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, according to the ACAAI, but can range from black pepper to vanilla.

“Because of this allergy’s complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task,” Dr. Bahna said.

Allergic reactions can range from sneezing to a rash, upset stomach, and sometimes even a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, where the throat closes, making it difficult to breathe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spices, meaning that they are often not on labels -- making them impossible to detect and avoid.

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