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My kid has a mild reaction to chickpeas. Should we avoid them completely?

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The question

When my kid eats chickpeas, he gets a mild rash. Is that something I should avoid - or push so he'll overcome it?

The answer

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Even if the rash is mild, avoid exposure to chickpeas until you can see an allergist. There may be a risk for more serious manifestations of allergies and for that reason do not push him, thinking he may build up an immunity over time.

Chickpeas are part of the legume family and contain protein which can trigger an allergic reaction.

The protein in chickpeas is similar to the protein in soy. The body reacts to the protein in that mast cells release histamine and that leads to inflammation manifesting in the skin and chest.

Chickpeas are common in Indian and Mediterranean foods. When you visit restaurants which specializes in these foods, be aware of that. The protein in chickpeas also is heat stable and that means that fumes from preparing chickpeas alone can trigger asthma attacks and allergies in predisposed patients.

Hummus also contains chickpeas and should be avoided for now.

According to a study published in 2008 in The Journal of Allergy and clinical Immunology, patients who react to chickpeas are also at risk for cross-reactions to peanuts and tree nuts.

Blood tests can be done before you see an allergist to identify chickpea allergies, but the blood test may not be definitive—it is just a screen. An allergist will do more tests to determine the risk of future reactions.

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Food allergies evolve, so the the timing of the allergy test is important, and for that reason you may have to plan on seeing the allergist more than once.

Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Peter Nieman.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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