Spice allergies affecting foodies and cosmetics users alike

Washington: Spices are one of the most widely used products in foods, cosmetics and dental products, but as they are not regulated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it becomes difficult for people suffering from allergies to identify or avoid them.

According to rough estimates by allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, spice allergy is responsible for 2 percent of food allergies.

“While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the American diet and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy,” allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., ACAAI past president, said.

“Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen.

“This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition,” he said.

In his presentation, Bahna noted that due to the wide use of spice in cosmetics, women are more likely to develop spice allergy.

Makeup, body oils, toothpaste and fragrances can all include one or more spices.

Common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, but can range from black pepper to vanilla. Several spice blends contain anywhere from three to 18 spices, and the hotter the spice, the greater the chance for allergy.

“Boiling, roasting, frying and other forms of applying heat to spices may reduce allergy causing agents, but can also enhance them depending on the spice,” Bahna said.

“Because of this allergy’s complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task,” he said.