Food allergies occur when the immune system identifies the proteins in a particular food as harmful to the body, subsequently reacting to try to "fight off" the "harmful" proteins (which are in fact harmless). Garlic allergies are not very common but are especially inconvenient to chefs who have to handle garlic on a regular basis. Allergic reactions don't occur only when you consume a food allergen but may also occur when you handle it or even breathe in particles of it.
Some symptoms of a garlic allergy include:
- Itching or swelling of the mouth, tongue or lips
- Skin reactions (eczema, hives, swelling and redness of the extremities or face)
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Respiratory symptoms (runny or stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, difficulty breathing)
- Cardiovascular symptoms (drop in blood pressure, lightheadedness, fainting)
If you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, which include nausea, vomiting, weak or rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion and loss of consciousness, seek immediate medical attention, as this can be fatal. Anaphylaxis is a fairly rare reaction to a garlic allergy but has been known to happen. If you have a severe allergy to garlic you may need to carry epinephrine with you so you can treat yourself in case you come into contact with garlic at any point.
If you have symptoms of a garlic allergy you should see an allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Most commercially available gloves are penetrable and will not protect you from an allergic reaction to garlic. If you need to handle garlic you should find out if there is a medication your allergist can prescribe to help you manage your allergy.