Are you itching to eat more shrimp? Or itching because of the shrimp you just ate?
Food allergies or intolerances can make your skin itch too. Here’s the scoop on which foods cause itching in certain people (and why).
Feeling itchy after eating? There are two common culprits: a food allergy and a food intolerance. Here’s how to figure out which one you’re dealing with.
Studies show that 2 to 5 percent of adults and 6 to 8 percent of children have food allergies.
Being exposed to a food that triggers this immune response can cause symptoms that affect your skin (like hives, swelling, flushing, and itchiness). These symptoms are the most common indicators of a food allergy.
But an allergic reaction can also involve symptoms related to breathing, digestion, and your heart. These symptoms typically show up quickly, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
If you think you might have a food allergy, it’s important to reach out to an allergist. Allergies can be serious and even life threatening.
Signs of a medical emergency
Some food allergies can result in anaphylaxis, a rare but life threatening allergic reaction that could happen quickly after you ingest a food you’re severely allergic to.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can be mild at first. You might have a runny nose or an “off” feeling. But they can rapidly progress to serious symptoms like these:
- difficulty breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- tightness in your throat
- low blood pressure
If you or someone you know may be experiencing a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.
You may be given a self-injectable epinephrine (aka EpiPen) to use in emergency situations.
Food intolerances or sensitivities can produce some of the same symptoms as food allergies but are not immune-related.
Up to 20 percent of people in westernized societies report some kind of food intolerance. Food intolerances usually cause digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea but can lead to other symptoms, including itching.
Unlike an allergy, a food intolerance won’t cause life threatening issues such as anaphylaxis. But the symptoms can still have a big impact on your life. That’s why it can be helpful to talk with a doctor about any suspected food intolerances.
Everyone can have different reactions to food, but some food groups are more likely to cause itchy skin than others.
Common food allergies
Remember, food allergies can lead to serious symptoms and can even be life threatening. It’s important to get a diagnosis from an allergist if you’re showing symptoms of an allergy to any of the foods below.
Eating even a tiny amount of a food you’re allergic to can be dangerous. Some people react to inhaling or even touching a food they’re allergic to.
1. Tree nuts and peanuts
Tree nut and peanut allergies seem to be on the rise, especially in children. They’re some of the most frequently diagnosed food allergies, and itchy skin is one of the most common symptoms.
2. Fish and shellfish
Most people who are allergic to seafood are allergic to either one or more finned fish or one of more shellfish. Only 10 percent of peeps with seafood allergies are allergic to both finned fish (like salmon and tuna) and shellfish.
This means that even if you’re allergic to shrimp, you may be able to eat other foods from under the sea. Just make sure to get your doc’s permission before diving right in.
3. Raw fruits and veggies
Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is a common type of food allergy in adults. If you experience OAS, proteins found in certain raw fruits and veggies can make your mouth, face, or throat feel itchy. It’s generally a mild reaction, though.
Allergic rhinitis (aka hay fever) is caused by pollen. Eating raw fruits and vegetables (like apples, celery, kiwi, peaches, plums, and carrots) could cause itching in your mouth, throat, and face. But if you cook the fruits and veggies first, they won’t usually cause any itchiness.
Other food allergies that may cause itching
- Soy. Children are more likely to experience a soy allergy, but it can occur in adults as well. A soy allergy may lead to skin-related symptoms like rashes, hives, and itching.
- Eggs. Egg allergies can cause itching as well as other symptoms like hives, diarrhea, nausea, and rashes.
- Wheat. Although many people outgrow a wheat allergy by age 16, some adults are allergic to wheat and wheat products. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, hives, runny nose, watery eyes, and itchiness.
- Cow’s milk. Cow’s milk allergies are more common in babies and kids but can occur in adults as well. An allergy to cow’s milk is associated with symptoms like itching or tingling around the mouth, wheezing, vomiting, and hives.
Common food intolerances
Food intolerances typically cause digestive issues rather than itchy skin, but it is a possible symptom. Several food groups are more likely to cause a food intolerance or sensitivity.
1. Histamine-containing foods
Histamine is an amine that’s often associated with food intolerances. If your body can’t break down histamine correctly, it can build up inside you. That can cause symptoms like itching, hives, headaches, and stomach cramps.
If you’re dealing with a histamine intolerance, following a low histamine diet can help. You’ll need to cut out some foods and drinks, including cured meats, vinegar, wine, beer, aged cheeses, dried fruit, and citrus.
Some people are super sensitive to sulfites and can experience symptoms like skin rashes, itching, hives, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, sulfites have even been linked to anaphylaxis.
This itchy skin may look similar to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, though, so ask your doctor if you’re not sure what’s up.
If you think you have a gluten intolerance, consult a doctor about following a gluten-free diet.
Food is just one of the things that could be causing your itchy skin. Some other potential suspects:
- environmental allergies
- new laundry detergent
- new lotion
- certain medications
- certain health conditions
When to see a doctor
It’s normal to get itchy skin from time to time. But if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should get checked out by a doctor ASAP:
- persistently itchy skin
- digestive symptoms
An allergist can test for food allergies so you can avoid a potentially serious reaction in the future.
If you test positive for a food allergy, you’ll work with a doctor or a registered dietitian to come up with an allergy-friendly diet.
If a food allergy is ruled out, you might have a food intolerance. A registered dietitian can help you figure out which foods are causing you probs and create a sensitivity-friendly diet for you.
Some foods and drinks may cause itching in certain people. This could be related to a food allergy or a food intolerance.
If you’re experiencing itchy skin and think it might be related to a food allergy or intolerance, set up an appointment with an allergist to get the proper testing.