5 Feb 2016

Anaphylaxis to oats – link between food-based moisturisers and food allergy

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Food allergy is a growing health issue and, for those affected, can be associated with serious medical outcomes. Allergic reactions to food can range from relatively mild (swelling, rashes) to potentially life threatening (anaphylaxis). 

Allergy Research Group:
(back) L-R Jade Jaffar, Nirupama Varese
Jennifer Rolland (Head), Robyn O'Hehir (Head), Jodie Abramovitch
(front) L-R Sara Prickett, Tracy Phan
Researchers within the Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (AIRMed) and the Department of Immunology and Pathology have recently published an interesting case study on oat allergy. A female patient presented with anaphylaxis following consumption of oats in an apple crumble crust. Analysis of the patient’s clinical history noted that, whilst previously able to eat oats without incident, she had been using an oat-based moisturiser to soothe her eczema (broken skin). The patient had also experienced some allergic symptoms (difficulty in breathing) in response to the moisturiser as well as an oat-based bath product.

Experiments were able to show that the patient had oat-specific IgE antibodies (a diagnostic marker of allergy) within her blood. In the presence of oat extract or the oat-containing products, these antibodies were able to activate the patient's basophils, an important cell type activated during an allergic reaction, indicating that they were indeed leading to clinical symptoms when the patient was exposed to oat.

Combined with the clinical history, these data suggest that the patient was sensitised to oat via the application of oat-based products to broken skin. As quoted in a previous article published within this blog, the head of AIRMed and senior author of this case study Professor O’Hehir states that: “This new study adds extra evidence to the argument for skin care preparations to be bland and to avoid agents capable of sensitisation, especially foods.”


Reference: Radhakrishna N, Prickett S, Phan T, Rolland JM, Puy R, O'Hehir RE. Anaphylaxis to oats after cutaneous sensitization by oatmeal in skin products used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2016 Jan-Feb: 4;152-3
doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2015.07.005
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