Garlic Allergy: Symptoms And Treatment

Garlic is popular with cuisines across the world for its distinct aroma and strong flavor. Its various health benefits and medicinal properties1 make it a favorite ingredient in numerous recipes. However, some people are allergic to garlic and can develop strong reactions from consuming or coming in contact with garlic and garlic-based products. In extreme cases, they may develop anaphylaxis, which can be fatal in the absence of immediate treatment.2 Generally, people who regularly chop fresh garlic may develop an allergy. But, it may also affect other people who consume undercooked garlic at restaurants and eateries. Garlic allergy can be quite powerful and even wearing gloves while chopping or handling garlic may not be an effective method to prevent the allergy. In the most extreme case, garlic’s allergic reaction may cause anaphylaxis, which happens very rarely.

What Causes The Allergy?


allergy caused by garlic is because of the bioactive compound called allicin present in garlic.3 Allicin is abundantly found in raw garlic and is released when garlic is chopped, sliced or crushed. The allergic reactions are caused mostly because of inhaling or coming into contact with the spice dust of raw garlic. Ingesting garlic rarely causes immediate reactions.4

The immune system of some people releases Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies into their bloodstream to counter the effect of allicin, and in the process, the mastocyte cells also begin to generate histamines. An increase in the histamine levels causes the fragile tissues to swell. Most of the allergens present in garlic are heat-labile, which means that if garlic is cooked or well-heated, then most people allergic to garlic can consume it without any

adverse effect. 5

Symptoms Of Garlic Allergy

1. Digestive Symptoms

Digestive Symptoms

Ingesting garlic or garlic-based foods may result in some discomfort in the digestive system in some people. Symptoms often surface within minutes of consuming garlic or sometimes may take several hours. Some common symptoms related to the digestive system include vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea and irregular bowel movements.6 Sometimes, it may even cause abdominal pain and cramps.

2. Skin Symptoms

Skin Symptoms

The skin, being sensitive to most allergic reactions, is one of the first to show signs of an allergy. The magnitude of the allergy depends on the skin’s sensitivity and the amount of the allergen that was ingested or the person was exposed to. When

people allergic to garlic touch or consume it, they may develop skin conditions such as rashes, hives, itching or irritation7, and skin inflammation.8 Some people who are allergic to garlic display swelling around the face. The lips, tongue, mouth, throat and sometimes the whole face can swell up. If the condition worsens, the person may even have difficulty in breathing, resulting in dizziness.

3. Respiratory Symptoms

Respiratory Symptoms

Garlic allergy can cause some people to develop respiratory conditions like asthma9 and rhinitis. Inhaling garlic dust can trigger respiratory problems in some people, especially those who harvest the spice, work

in storage facilities or in spice factories.10


Since most dishes use garlic, it may be hard to completely avoid garlic. Most fast foods at restaurants and takeaways use garlic and almost all the cuisines world-over use garlic in one form or the other. The best way to prevent garlic intake is to eat only home-cooked food. However, if you must eat out, then inquire and ensure that garlic is not an ingredient in the dish. While buying packaged and processed food, read the information on the contents of the product and make sure that garlic is not used.

Treatment Methods To Cure Garlic Allergy

The treatment for garlic allergy is different from the treatment required for garlic intolerance. Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur. This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.11 In cases where the symptoms are mild or

moderate, it is treated with anti-histamines that easily available at the pharmacy. Anti-histamines are given when the symptoms of a reaction are noticed, or before being exposed to an allergen, to prevent an allergic reaction.

Adrenaline injections are administered to those with a risk of anaphylaxis, which occurs in extremely rare cases. The medication must be carried at all times, so that it may be used in case of a severe reaction.12

Word Of Advice: Occasionally, allergies can worsen and cause the health to deteriorate. If the symptoms of the allergy do not reduce, it is best to consult your physician. Do not take any medicines without consulting your physician. Delay in consultation can worsen the condition with life-threatening consequences.