Can you have an allergy to coffee?

First things first. Since coffee is a drink, an allergy if at all categorises as a food intolerance. Yes, some people find that they have negative reactions to caffeine in many forms including coffee. This is known as a caffeine allergy.

Caffeine allergy

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The good news is that generally most sufferers will find that the allergy is not life threatening. However, for a small number, this could potentially be life threatening if it is becoming an anaphylactic shock and must be dealt with on an emergency basis.

Generally, if you keep your caffeine intake to below 400 mg a day, which is four cups of freshly prepared coffee, or ten cans of cola (!), there should be no problems. 

Anything in excess can have issues and caffeine falls into the category where you may see an immediate reaction.

What are the symptoms of a caffeine allergy?

These are a list of symptoms that people have described having

1. Irritability, getting into a bad mood or angry.

2. Headaches or even Migraines in some

3. Nervousness or jitters

4. Heart Palpitations or sense of heart racing

5. Insomnia

6. Restlessness

7. Diarrhoea or stomach upset. This is different to the reflex reaction some have when they have coffee, particularly on an empty stomach. 

8. Skin irritations like hives, rashes or eczema

9. Muscle tremors

Symptoms that maybe the sign of the onset of anaphylactic shock

10. Wheezing

11. Difficulty breathing or tightness

12. Throat or tongue swelling

What causes a caffeine allergy?

Allergies are when the immune system thinks whatever the allergen is attacking the body. This results in the immune system reacting by producing an antibody that causes the allergy symptoms.

A caffeine allergy is caused if for whatever reason your body can’t process caffeine.

Treatment & What to do if you suspect you have this allergy?

When to see a doctor

The first thing to do if you are suffering an allergic reaction that is severe is to contact emergency services.

If you are having a minor allergy, then treat this as you would any other allergies you have – typically with over the counter anti-histamine medication. Mention this to your doctor when you see them next.

It’s also possible that you find that if you take your coffee with milk that what you are discovering is that you are lactose intolerant. If this is the case, switching to lactose free milk will address the allergy.

Check for Caffeine Allergy

A skin patch test could confirm a caffeine allergy.

If you suspect you have a minor caffeine allergy, you could remove caffeine from your diet to see if things get better.

This starts with the obvious things like coffee, tea of all forms, cola and energy drinks and of course chocolate. There are also the less obvious things such as vitamin supplements, some types of medication as well.

If you are symptom free after cutting the foods out, it means you have a food intolerance to one or multiple of the above.

By introducing one of the food items at a time you can identify the specific food item that causes you to react. Only do this if the allergy is not severe and you really want to get to the bottom of the allergy.

Prevention

Completely cutting out the caffeine from your diet is the only option. Remember that even decaffeinated coffee can have a tiny amount of caffeine left in it. The other is to reduce your intake.

If it’s a minor caffeine allergy, then try reducing your intake of caffeine product. A food diary with quantities and frequency may help you see how much of caffeine you really are consuming.

Caffeine allergy related complications

Like all other allergies, ignoring a caffeine allergy and continuing to consume coffee or other caffeine products could possibly result in a worsening of the allergy. Since for people who already are prone to other severe allergies, it could result it in anaphylactic reactions.

Finally

While it is good to know about caffeine allergies, it is very easy to rush to the wrong conclusion based on some reading. If you are worried about this, please get yourself medical help and rule it in or out.

Do you have a caffeine allergy? Do share what kind of allergy it is. Since you are looking at the health related issues of coffee, do you wonder if coffee is bad for you