It's not common to have an oatmeal allergy, although it can happen. Oats aren't always the issue, though. Sometimes other ingredients or contaminants can be the actual sources of allergic responses. If you experience negative side effects after eating oatmeal, call your doctor.
Symptoms of food allergies can be life-threatening in some cases — seek immediate medical attention if you have difficulty breathing.
Read more: Stomach Cramps and Oatmeal
Recognize Oat Allergy
According to the New York Allergy & Sinus Centers, oat allergies occur for two primary reasons — cross-contamination from growing and processing next to wheat products, and an allergy to a protein component of oats called avenin.
Common foods and products to avoid that potentially contain oats include moisturizers made with oatmeal, oat flour, oat milk, granola bars, cereal, pudding, beer and cookies. Oats can be hidden in other foods — be sure to read ingredients labels.
Even if you don't have a full-blown allergy, you might notice oat sensitivity. You could have oat intolerance bloating or oat intolerance diarrhea, in addition to other food allergy symptoms.
Avoid Skin Issues
One of the first things you might notice if you're allergic to oats is red, blotchy spots on your skin. They can occur on your hands after touching oats, around your mouth after eating oats or anywhere else on your body that comes into contact with the allergen.
Red patches can pop up in other areas, too, like around your eyes as oatmeal works its way through your digestive tract. These skin irritations can be itchy and crusty and could be associated with hives.
Mimicking the Flu
Sometimes an allergy makes you feel like you have a cold or the flu. Shortly after eating your steamy bowl of oatmeal, your nose may start running. A dry cough, sneezing and nasal congestion could soon follow.
You might even have a dry, itchy mouth or itchy ears. An oatmeal allergy may also give you a bellyache and affect your digestive tract, making you nauseated, causing vomiting or leaving you with diarrhea.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If your lips, tongue or throat start to swell up, your oat allergy is probably more severe. Swelling lets you know that your immune system is going into overdrive, attacking the proteins in oatmeal it deems dangerous.
If you start wheezing, turn blue, have difficulty breathing or have pain in your chest, seek immediate medical attention. You might be going into anaphylaxis, as described by Mayo Clinic, which can lead to loss of consciousness, a weak pulse and even death.
Read more: Does Oatmeal Irritate Your Stomach?
Consider Other Causes
Ingredients in prepared oatmeal other than the oats may be the actual culprits. Take dairy, for example. Some restaurants add milk to oatmeal to give it a more creamy texture. The allergic side effects you're experiencing could be from the dairy, not from the oats.
Or sometimes gluten intolerance leads to gastrointestinal issues that resemble an allergy, if the oats were contaminated with gluten. According to the FDA, foods are not required to be labeled as "gluten-free," but if they do carry this label, the food must meet specific requirements.
Read labels or ask about ingredients if someone else is preparing your oatmeal so you can work with your doctor to figure out if oats are the real problem.
- Allergology International: "A Case of an Anaphylactic Reaction Due to Oats in Granola"
- New York Allergy & Sinus Centers: "Oat Allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Anaphylaxis"
- FDA: "Gluten and Food Labeling"
- Food Additives and Contaminants: Gluten Contamination in the Canadian Commercial Oat Supply
- Food Allergy Research & Education: Wheat Allergy