If you suspect that you are allergic to iron supplements, you need to talk with an allergist to receive a clinical diagnosis. Any time you introduce a substance into your body, you have the possibility of developing an allergic reaction. You may be allergic to the iron or another ingredient in the supplement. Many supplements contain milk or gluten proteins that could trigger an allergic reaction unrelated to iron. If you experience any severe pain or reactions, stop taking the iron supplement and call your doctor.
Don’t take iron supplements unless instructed by your doctor. Taking too much iron can lead to health risks and further complications. If you’re currently taking iron supplements and you think you’re allergic to the supplement, your doctor will perform allergy testing to diagnose the cause of your symptoms. In order for your symptoms to be linked to an allergy to the iron supplement, your body must produce immunoglobulin E antibodies, or IgE antibodies. These antibodies are only created during an allergic reaction, making the condition possible to diagnose.
What happens when you have an allergic reaction to an iron supplement is that your immune system mistakes the supplement as a dangerous substance. While the supplement is safe for human consumption, your body reacts to it as if it were a threat to your body. Immediately, your immune system creates IgE antibodies that attempt to fight off the iron supplement. This causes the body to create other chemicals, such as histamine, to protect the body. These chemicals trigger inflammation in soft tissue throughout the body.
As with most allergic reactions, various parts of your body will be affected by the allergy. Digestive complications include cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Skin reactions are common, especially with medications and supplements. Skin reactions include general irritation and inflammation, eczema and hives. Your respiratory system can become inflamed, causing wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. Sinus congestion can cause sinus headaches, postnasal drip and a runny nose.
If you’re diagnosed clinically with an allergy to iron supplements, your doctor will recommend that you stop taking iron supplements. You may also need to avoid certain cereals and bread products that are fortified with iron. Your doctor may perform allergy tests to determine if you are allergic to the iron or another ingredient in the supplement.