Corn Allergy Explained | Allergy Test

Corn is a fantastic food that we can have in our salads or use in its oil or flour form. Corn isn’t only found in cornflour, popcorn, and corn oil, many processed foods and canned goods use corn as an ingredient too. Once you start going through ingredient lists of most processed foods, you’ll likely find corn as an ingredient that mainly aids in the preservation and enhancement of taste in food.

 

What is corn allergy?

Corn allergy occurs when your immune system responds to corn as if it was an invader and releases histamine. When the body releases histamines, that’s what causes the symptoms we view as allergic reactions. The body feels the need to release histamines because it mistakes corn for something harmful, like bacteria or viruses.

While corn allergy isn’t the most common food allergy, it is still a condition that affects some people’s everyday life. Most allergies occur when the environment and genetics interact. When it comes to corn allergies, the protein that causes all that adverse reaction by triggering the immune system is called zein. When zein gets into the body, the immune system assumes it is harmful and hence triggers the negative symptoms of allergies that we’ll get into below.

Corn allergy symptoms occur when exposed to corn itself or its byproducts. A cross-reactivity between corn and other similar allergens like rice, soy, and wheat occurs on rare occasions. But such an occurrence is rare, and it can be difficult to diagnose for cross-reactivity.

Since zein is the main culprit behind corn allergies, you can always check for refined oils since some of them don’t contain zein. But it will be wise to consult your doctor before making that decision, especially if your corn allergy symptoms are severe.

 

How common is a corn allergy?

There aren’t that many documented studies on corn allergy and its prevalence. Currently, only two studies are available that discuss the prevalence of corn allergy. They include:

  1. A study conducted in Pakistan in 2016 found only 1% of the population has corn allergy{1}.
  2. Another study done in Honduras tested fifty adults for corn allergy and found 6% of them to suffer from corn allergy{2}.

 

Symptoms of corn allergy

Corn allergy symptoms and severity vary from one individual to the next one. Most people experience mild symptoms, but a few people experience severe reactions that could even be life-threatening. Corn allergy symptoms appear within a few minutes to a few hours after consuming something that contains corn. Corn allergy symptoms in adults include:

  • Rashes or hives (corn allergy rashes)
  • Itching or tingling in/around the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, face, and other parts of the body
  • Headache
  • Digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Flushing or redness of the skin

One may suffer from a rare reaction known as anaphylaxis in severe cases. If you’re prone to having an anaphylaxis attack, you need to walk around with an EpiPen. Anaphylaxis requires urgent medical care. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Shock
  • Lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
  • Rapid, irregular pulse
  • Difficulty breathing due to swelling in the throat

 

Risk factors of corn allergy

Corn allergy can affect anyone at any age, but some people are more likely to get a corn allergy. For example, having other illnesses can heighten the chances of a corn allergy. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Hay fever
  • Other food allergies
  • Family history of corn allergy

When you are suffering from corn allergy, it is possible to get the symptoms of corn allergy from:

  1. Corn pollen
  2. Cornstarch
  3. Grass pollen

The symptoms from the above are similar to those of hay fever and asthma.

 

Corn allergy testing

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Our Allergy Test Box Kit

If you experience similar symptoms like the ones mentioned above every time you consume corn or corn oil, you might be due for an Allergy Test. An allergy test checks for IgE antibodies in your blood. Not only will you have your sample checked for corn allergy, but the lab will also check for other common allergens, and you’ll get back your results in a week. A corn allergy testing will help you pinpoint whether it genuinely is corn you’re allergic to or other foods. Once you’ve answered, you will know what to eliminate from your diet. If you’re still not sure how you feel about your food elimination or where to start, you can consult your nutritionist or doctor for further guidance.

 

Corn allergy treatment

Like all other allergies, they can’t go away in adulthood. The best treatment for corn allergy is completely cutting off any foods and products that contain corn. Even pollen can cause issues since some people report having a corn pollen allergy. If you experience anaphylaxis after consuming foods with corn, you need to carry an EpiPen at all times. Besides having an EpiPen, you’ll still need to go for urgent care afterward. If you have mild symptoms of a corn allergy, it is best to purchase over-the-counter antihistamines. They will help reduce the symptoms of the allergic reaction.

 

Corn allergy food list to avoid

Unlike other allergens, you won’t find packages written “corn-free,” so it can be a little hard to locate which processed and packaged foods contain corn. Apart from the expected food items that you will find corn written as an ingredient, there are times you’ll find it hidden in other ingredients. When purchasing processed foods, you’ll need to look out for:

  • Caramel
  • Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Malt syrup
  • Modified food starch and vinegar
  • Dextrin

Apart from the above, always steer clear of anything with ingredients like:

  • Maize
  • Hominy
  • Masa
  • Corn flour
  • Corn syrup

Wherever you dine, always ensure you inform your hosts or chefs that you’re allergic to corn. When you do that, you will be able to stay away from all the annoying symptoms that come with a corn allergy.

There are also non-food items that contain corn, and it can sometimes trigger corn allergy symptoms. Check for ingredients in items like:

  • Adhesives on envelopes, stickers, and stamps
  • Paper containers like boxes, cups, plates, and milk cartons
  • Some clothing and fabrics
  • Crayons
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Shampoo
  • Paint
  • Food wrappers with cornstarch coatings
  • Straws
  • Toothpaste
  • Laundry starch
  • Medical products like surgical gloves coated with cornstarch and dextrose intravenous (IV) solution
  • Pet Food

The above list of things to avoid can be a little exhaustive, but you need to understand that corn allergy can be tricky. That’s because corn could be in any processed products or foods. So, to be on the safe side, you’ll always need to keep tabs on all the ingredients of products and foods you purchase. If you have a corn allergy, you will find some great corn-free meals you can indulge in. Although there are corn items that you can consume without getting any reactions, you’ll need to consult your doctor before testing the waters.

 

Final thoughts on corn allergy

Corn allergy is rare, but it can sometimes cause severe reactions. If you experience corn allergy symptoms after consuming anything with corn, you’ll need to order your Allergy Test online to get tested today. Corn is a slippery ingredient in most processed foods, and you’ll have to consult your doctor so you’ll know how to eat it and foods to avoid altogether. To keep the symptoms away, you’ll need to avoid corn and anything that contains it. Most people with corn allergy also tend to suffer from high-fructose corn syrup allergy. The best way to get into a corn-free diet is by starting out with unprocessed foods like fresh meats and fresh whole grains. You should even find a corn-free version of your favorite snacks in health stores.

 

About the Author

Kate Young is a trusted member of the Healthy Stuff team, and her attention to detail ensures that each test is in safe hands and able to be validated. Kate joined Healthy Stuff in 2021 as our Laboratory Manager, following 7 years in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for the Oak Clinic Group in Japan. Coordinating a team of 6, her expertise in processing protocols and validations has allowed us to gain ISO 9001 accreditation status and work towards Good Lab Practice and further ISO. See Kates Healthy Stuff profile here.

 

References

  1. Inam M, Shafique RH, Roohi N, Irfan M, Abbas S, Ismail M. Prevalence of sensitization to food allergens and challenge proven food allergy in patients visiting allergy centers in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Pakistan. Springerplus. 2016;5(1):1330. doi:10.1186/s40064-016-2980-0 [https://springerplus.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40064-016-2980-0]
  2. Gonzales-Gonzalez, V., Diaz, A., Fernandez, K., and M. Rivera. Prevalence of Food Allergens Sensitization and Food Allergies in a Group of Allergic Honduran Children. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology. 2018. 14(1):23. [https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13223-018-0245-x]