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  • Jacqueline See-Tho

Hidden Allergens

Food allergies and intense reactions aren’t limited to purely food. Food is one of the most versatile and useful resources in life. It is present in a variety of other products for many beneficial reasons. However, this can pose a threat to those with food allergies, not only do we have to be cautious when eating and being around food, but we also must be very aware and careful when buying and interacting with other items. This can have a big impact on many areas of our lives and our enjoyment of activities. It may be hard to detect when a product contains an allergen, as it is not advertised that way.

Luckily, I have created a list of many everyday products, household items, and other random doohickeys you may not realize contain allergens and may be unsafe. Although this is not a completely comprehensive list of all goods that contain allergens and can cause reactions, they are some of the more commonly used and owned items. Hopefully, this will help you reevaluate the things that you and your family own and help you recognize safe items vs. dangerous items.

I have split it up into different categories of Everyday Items, Cosmetics/Skin Care/Beauty Products/Personal Hygiene, and Food You May Not Realize Contain Allergens. I know several other bloggers have written about this topic in the past, so I wanted there to be another resource with additional information for everyone. (These lists cover things that may contain food allergens. I have not listed any that are related to non-food allergies like metals, insect stings/bites, etc. although they may share some of these products.)

Everyday Items That May Contain Some of the Top 8 Allergens

  • Some gardening products-potting soil, etc. may contain nutshells.

  • Craft materials: Modeling clay and playdoh may contain wheat. Try making your own at home! Finger paint and chalk may also be unsafe.

  • Vitamins and medicines (calcium, probiotics, antacids, nasal sprays, etc.): Allergens like soy, wheat, and egg may make their way into vitamins, depending on the type.

  • Scented sprays and candles for your home, especially if you have airborne allergies, may unknowingly hurt you.

  • Things that harbor allergens once they make it into the home, like rugs, need to be cleaned well. You can use vacuums and other cleaning supplies, but also be careful with your cleaning supplies so that allergens don’t spread further.

  • Toys-stuffed animals, beanbags, etc.

  • Animal/Pet Food and Treats: Dog treats, cat treats, bird feed, etc. Some food and treats for pets contain things like soy, fish, peanut butter, etc. Try to find treats that are safe for you to give to your pet and for your pet to ingest. You can make homemade treats too! Even if you don’t touch your pet’s treats, but they still eat it, they can spread the allergen around. (Watch out for cat litter too!)

  • Gloves

  • Artificial fireplace logs

  • Balloons

  • Plants

  • Detergent

  • Home decor

  • Fabrics

  • Adhesives

  • Tissues and certain wet wipes

Cosmetics/Skin Care/Beauty Products/Personal Hygiene Items with Possible Allergens

You can always work with a dermatologist to find the best products that work for you. You should test products before actually buying a whole container of it, and some products listed as hypoallergenic may actually be safer. Dove, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, and sometimes Burt’s Bees tend to have more hypoallergenic products for sensitive skin. Try to choose unscented products. You can also try baby products since they are more gentle, but they may not provide you with your desired results.

  • Haircare: shampoos, conditioners, and dyes may contain nuts, dairy, etc.

  • Beauty face masks

  • Perfumes and colognes

  • Lip balms, glosses, sticks: May have fish (weird right!) is sometimes used in these products.

  • Makeup: Soy, wheat, sesame oil, dairy, and tree nuts are sometimes used in cosmetics.

  • Some lotions/face and shaving creams contain nut oils. My favorite allergy-friendly lotions and skin product brands, if you have dry skin or eczema, are Eucerin, Aquaphor, and CeraVe.

  • Some sunscreens contain nut oils or soy.

  • Toothpaste, while mostly safe, there have been reports of them containing milk.

  • Soaps may contain allergens.

  • Antiperspirants (deodorant)

  • Nail polish

Food You May Not Realize Contains Allergens

  • Sauces and dressings are places that dairy, eggs, fish, soy, and nuts can hide in. Make sure to always check with the chef or read the ingredients thoroughly.

  • Trail mix and nuts: This one may be more obvious as you can often see the nuts, but they may not be explicitly stated on the package. Nuts are often included because they are a good source of protein.

  • Products (aside from the usual ones) with Dairy:

  • Butter/non-stick sprays.

  • Some kinds of butter advertise as olive oil, but really it is just butter with olive oil.

  • Beware of products wrongly labeled as dairy-free when they are actually only lactose-free.

  • Caramel, custards, puddings, cakes, etc.

  • Milk in Fried/battered foods (also watch for cross-contamination in fryers)

  • Soups

  • Processed meats. Some meats like salami, prosciutto, ham, etc. contain dairy.

  • Ghee and Whey

  • Powdered Milk

  • Watch for eggs (and sometimes breadcrumbs) in burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, pasta, bread, cakes, quiche, and vaccines (although they are sometimes safe). I have found some big versions of my favorite candies contain eggs too.

  • Sushi for soy, fish, and shellfish.

  • Pizza toppings-there is a variety of options, so pretty much anything could be on a pizza.

  • Crackers and cereal

  • Chewing gum-watch specifically for soy

  • Margarine

  • Tofu and Miso

  • Watch for wheat in alcoholic drinks like beer (if you are of appropriate drinking age)

  • Drinks and Juices

Overall, you should always check the ingredients of items that you put on or near your body very thoroughly. Some allergens may have alternate, scientific, names (i.e. Arachis hypogaea=peanuts), especially on skincare and hygiene products, so look out for those and do your research. Work with your allergist and dermatologist to find the safest and best options for different products. Finding allergens in items you own is inevitable, but being able to recognize them and find alternatives is what matters.

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

Top Allergens: Places Where They Hide

How to Avoid Hidden Allergens in Food

5 common hidden food allergens

Hidden Allergens in Everyday Products

Finding Hidden Allergens

Choosing Skin Friendly Beauty Products

Cosmetics Skin Allergy Triggers, Treatments, and Prevention

Allergens in Cosmetics

9 Allergy Safe Beauty Products

Food Allergens in Non-Food Items

Finding Peanuts in Non-Food Items

Surprising Places Food Allergens Lurk

Prevent Allergic Reactions In Your Kitchen

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