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Food allergies are quite common, and since coffee is a food, it is possible that you might be allergic to coffee. Sad, but true. In this piece, we tell you what coffee allergy is, how it is different from caffeine allergy, and what symptoms to watch out for just in case.

Coffee is the world’s most popular drink. There are many people out there who need a cup of coffee first thing in the morning to clear out all the cobwebs, and then another cup after lunch to increase productivity during the slow late-afternoon hours. But what if you’re allergic to coffee? How do you even know whether or not you are?

Here is the lowdown on coffee allergy.

It is different from caffeine allergy
The first thing you should know is whether you have a coffee allergy or caffeine allergy. If you find that you regularly have some untoward physical symptoms after drinking a cup of coffee, don’t jump to the conclusion that you have to go without your daily cuppa. Experiment with decaffeinated coffee and see if that gives you the same symptoms. If they don’t, that means you’re allergic to caffeine, not coffee per se. So you could look at drinking decaffeinated coffee.

The history of coffee allergy
The first reports of occupational allergy to coffee came out in the 1950s, when workers at a coffee production plant began to display symptoms of nasal allergies and asthma when exposed to raw coffee beans and roasted coffee dust. This suggested that some allergens are getting through the coffee preparation process, which meant that at least theoretically, people who drink coffee could be exposed to allergic attacks.

Isolation of the allergen
The isolation of the coffee allergen did not happen until 2012. Out of the seventeen people who complained of allergy-like symptoms due to exposure to coffee dust and coffee beans, only two were found to carry allergic antibodies that we know so far. The researchers were therefore able to isolate one major coffee allergen called Cof a 1, and they even developed a blood test to check its presence in a person.

The knock on effect of coffee
There is also other research that suggests that coffee can act as a catalyst in allowing other forms of allergy to be exposed. For instance, there was an Italian study in 2008 in which a father and daughter thought they had presumed coffee allergy after contracting a parasitic infection. However, researchers found it more likely that the parasite damaged the intestine, and therefore allowed the coffee allergy to occur. Both father and daughter showed evidence of specific allergic antibodies that are associated with coffee.

Symptoms to be aware of
If you’re allergic to coffee, you’ll likely go through some coldlike symptoms as well. A runny nose or congestion is typical with food allergies. You might even start sneezing and have a dry cough. There are some severe symptoms to be wary of, though: if you have a swelling around your lips, or if your tongue swells up or throat begins to itch on the inside, call up emergency right away. You could also become confused and even pass out. These are symptoms of a condition called anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening situation.

For the vast majority of us, though, thankfully, a cup of coffee a day carries no danger at all. Enjoy it, but be sure that you don’t come to depend upon it.

Ankit Gupta

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