Soy allergies are reactions to soybean-based products and are common in young children. The earliest exposure for some babies is soy-based baby formula. Many foods contain soy products, making a soy allergy more difficult to manage once the child begins eating solid foods. While children often outgrow soy allergies, this particular food allergy is still a problem for some adults.
Signs & Symptoms
Like other food allergies, a reaction to soy typically shows up within an hour of eating the soy-based food. The symptoms can be serious, but they are typically not a large risk. According to the Mayo Clinic website, the possible symptoms include hives, itching, digestive problems, abdominal cramps, wheezing, mouth tingling, dizziness and swelling, particularly in the facial area. Anaphylaxis doesn’t typically occur with soy allergies, but it is a possibility, especially if the person also has a peanut allergy. Anaphylaxis symptoms include increased pulse, shock, unconsciousness and constricted airways.
Sources of Soy
Many products prominently include soy in the name or package labeling. Products that are primarily soy are easier to identify, and include soy milk, soy dairy products, tofu, edamame, soy sauce, soy flour and soybean oil. Others are more difficult to identify. Items that could contain soy products include baked goods, crackers, vegetables with sauce or breading, fruit toppings, drink mixes, meat substitutes, canned soups, frozen meals, salad dressing, sauces and breakfast bars.
While no specific treatment is available, you can reduce the symptoms after an allergic reaction. Antihistamines reduce the effects of the reaction for some people. When treating a child, choose an antihistamine made for that age range or consult your child’s physician. For a severe reaction, epinephrine treats the condition.
Avoiding soy products helps prevent an allergic reaction from occurring. Food labels provide valuable information for people with food allergies. Read all labels before purchasing products for the person with a soy allergy. In addition to soy, watch for miso, tempeh, tofu and textured vegetable protein on the ingredients list. Vitamin E also contains soybean oil, according to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Dining out is more of a challenge. Ask the staff if soy products in the food or preparation before ordering.
A list of products that don’t contain soy makes your shopping easier. As you read the labels and find soy-free products, add them to the list. Flavorings, broths and vegetable products on the ingredients list can contain soy. If you aren’t sure about a particular product, contact the manufacturer to determine if they use soy products.