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What is a Salicylate Allergy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A salicylate allergy is more appropriately termed as salicylate intolerance or insensitivity. With some people, the consumption of salicylates present in drugs like aspirin, cosmetics, and in a variety of food substances, creates an adverse reaction that may be minor or major. This reaction is often individualized, depending on the person’s tolerance level for salicylates. Some people can have a relatively high tolerance, but will still show signs of salicylate allergy or intolerance if they cross a certain threshold of exposure to salicylates. Others react almost immediately to ingestion or skin contact with salicylates, and need to avoid them almost completely.

There are a range of potential symptoms that are suggestive of a salicylate allergy. The most severe reactions are anaphylactic shock reactions, and these characteristically show the appearances of hives (urticaria), and swelling of the face, lips, mouth, and tongue. With this reaction, breathing can become significantly impaired and people may be wheezing or sound like they have asthma. It is important to get emergency care if such a reaction occurs, no matter the substance, because breathing can become severely depressed, putting the patient's life in danger.

Less severe reactions may also be seen with salicylate allergy. Some people develop rashes or hives in different parts of the body. Wheezing might also occur, but breathing is not as impaired as when anaphylactic shock is present. People may develop other symptoms such as runny nose and coughing.

For those with severe salicylate allergy, doctors will often help plan diets that are made up of foods that have low salicylate content, in addition to recommending avoidance of drugs like aspirin and possibly other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Some of the foods avoided with this diet might include most types of fruits, tomatoes, many forms of vegetables, corn, most nuts and legumes, most spices, honey, yeast, tea, coffee, juice and wine. These foods may encompass such a huge part of the diet, that it can be difficult to find nutritional substitutes.

Truly, most people with salicylate allergy are able to tolerate low or mid-range levels of salicylates without reaction, and there are a number of foods that may fall into this class, or people may be able to eat small amounts of foods that contain higher levels of salicylates on occasion. With allergists or immunologists, patients can do some experimenting in safe locations, where anaphylaxis could be treated right away, to determine exactly how much tolerance they may have for salicylates in the diet.

Though there are many informational websites that lists high, low and medium salicylate foods, the person with a severe salicylate allergy should not attempt to figure this issue out alone. It is possible that people will encounter stronger reactions over time, and it’s emphatically advised that people get help from a doctor or a well-educated nutritionist to determine which foods and medicines are safest to consume. Treatment difficulty revolves around finding individual safe consumption levels so people suffer the least effects from this condition.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon110696 — On Sep 13, 2010

what is msg that they put in food?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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