29 answers

Red Dye in Food Allergy

Has anyone had a child that is allergic to the red dye they use in foods? My son keeps getting hives and we think that it is from the red dye. Is there anything speacial we should be doing besides reading the ingredients in all foods? Thanks for your help.

I called the pediatrician's office and asked about it but all they said was they would check into it and call me back. That was 2 days ago and I have not heard from them.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone who responded. Wow, I am glad I decided to ask the question on this site. Lots of great info and web sites. Thank you so much for the offer of prayers too. My MD called this a.m. and they want to send him for a blood test but they said that it would not show the red dye allergy but would test him for all the common childhood allergies. They said the test will cost over $400. My husband does not want to put him through this test if it does not specifically tell us about the red dye but I would like to have it done just to make sure he is not allergic to anything else. I have the order for the test at the lab so I just have to go get the test. Does anyone have ideas on how to get my husband to agree to the testing? I just feel we need to be "better safe than sorry" on this issue. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR THERE RESPONSES.

More Answers

My daughter used to break out when she was young, the only solution we found was to avoid the foods, it's tough, certain things in small smounts didn't bother her though and it was really jsut a matter of eliminating all of them then slowly adding things back in and finding what did and didn't cause ehr to break out, thankfully she outgrew it. good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

When I was a kid I was allergic to red dyes, but grew out of it. It was red lake #2 and #6 I think. It's best to avoid all red and orange colored foods. Carry benadryl with you just in case he gets a bad reaction.

1 mom found this helpful

I babysit from my home and one of the boys I babysat for was allergic to red dye, mostly in kool-aid and juices. He didn't break out in hives but he got very hyper, it was a nightmare! His parents decided to cut all red dye out of his diet and it seemed to work and he has since grown out of it for the most part. I agree with the other ladies and suggest just cutting out all red dye, let it get out of his system then slowly add, one at a time, the foods back in to see what exactly is making him break out.

As for the Dr's office not calling back, I would SWITCH Dr's! My Dr gets very upset if we have a problem at 1AM Saturday morning, or anytime after hours, and wait until office hours to call. I am so thankful for our pediatrician he is a godsend!!

Good Luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

First of all, I am NOT an expert in this area, so don't take my word as gospel, OK? I have found (with regard to my children's friends with dye allergies) that the allergy is really to shellfish, not the dye itself. Many red dyes are made from boiling the shells of lobsters or whatever to produce the desired color. The solution they have found is to use kosher food dyes and kosher food whenever possible (look on the package for a 'u' in a circle or a 'k' in a star, etc...) It is against kosher rules to eat shellfish, so these dyes are safe for people with shellfish allergies. There are probably plenty of kosher foods already in your house, but if you aren't Jewish, you probably never looked.

This really only applies if the allergy is to shellfish, so be sure to get that checked out first. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,
I believe, with no proof, that my son also is allergic to red dye. Whenever he eats any food coloring, especially red, his behavior becomes atrocious - screaming and crying, seemingly on the edge of being out of control.

We've eliminated all articficial food coloring from his diet by doing what you talked about. We read all ingredients and don't buy anything artificial. We shop at health food stores, at Trader Joe's, or buy organics at the big stores. It has really helped.

Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

None of my children have had that allergy, luckily, but---reading the ingredients is good but it is still a little like pick up sticks. Sometimes it is impossible to figure out what has red in it. Purple, orange, pink, brown, etc. will all have to be eliminated. Remember too that black is the highest volume of red there is. I have a cousin with red allergies. It was a real challenge.

He may be having a reaction to something else as well.

I think it may be time to call the physician back and make an appointment to have him tested for allergies.

I will pray for you.

P. R

1 mom found this helpful

My son is allergic to apple juice, tomatoes and a number of other foods. I took him to an allergist and they were able to test him and tell me exactly what his food allergies were. When he does eat the wrong food his face and ears turn red hot, he gets a rash and his ears/throat/body itches. What has helped him beside avoiding problem foods is over-the-counter Zyrtec.
Good luck!

First of all, get a different doctor. Recognizing food allergies can make a big difference in learning difficulties, personality issues etc....

Not sure where you are from, but try a childrens hospital for kid specialist in that field, and they can also rule out any other food allergies.

I have known of a child who was allergic to red food dye, and a number of other things as well. He was a friend of my niece's, and they had to be very careful with him. Reading labels is a good start. Please find a GOOD allergist who works well with children and get your little one checked.

I don't have any experience with this allergy, but I know of a group that would be able to help you. The name of the group is FoodLab and they are Yahoo Groups. Here is what they say about their group.

This group was established for exchanging ideas, information, and experiences in experimenting with cooking, especially for picky eaters, families with food allergies, and other restricted diets. Related discussions, such as where to find ingredients, brand comparisons, and impacts of particular foods on health and well-being are welcome. The general mood is that of a celebration of what we CAN eat, and reveling in the exploration of new approaches.

Off-topic discussions are permitted, so long as it doesn't take over the group. Normal internet etiquette rules apply... no flaming, trolling, personal attacks, and so on. Play nice with your food!

This group does not subscribe to, support, or recommend any particular food philosophy or habits. Whether you're strictly raw vegan or follow Weston A. Price, you can share your experiences and learn from others' here.

I agree with trying NAET - it can eliminate the allergy altogether.
Good Luck!

I had a friend with the same allergy. All she did was avoid red dye in foods. :) good luck.

I'd make SURE & keep him away from ALL dyes, preservatives and pesticides. Keep the processed food to a bare minimum. Make sure that he's getting enough magnesium in his diet. Almost all allergy and asthma patients are magnesium deficient.

Dear C.,
I had a friend whose little girl had an allergy to red food dye. She just simply did what you said and read labels and stayed away from it. She did not do anything special. I know that's not a lot of info but it's better than not receiving any! :)

You may already have all the answers you need, but yet, we can be allergic to anything and additives are often what is creating the problem. We can even develop allergies even though we've never had a problem before. Please feel free to contact me at ____@____.com if you want to know what others do to overcome allergies.

Check out the FIELGOLD ( SP) diet. It is an additive and red dye free diet that gives you specific everyday grocery products to avoid and that are okay to purchase. It also works really well wiht kids who are having difficulty in school or with ADD. You can find info on thw internet and my family has followed it for YEARS and we can always tell when the kids go off it for a a birthday party of something and the hives or the itches as my daughter says come back.
good luck

Hi, C..

My friend's children are allergic to red dyes, too. She had to read labels and they use allergy medicine.

Reading labels helps to keep you vigilant. My daughter is allergic to nuts, so I have to read labels for anything and everything pertaining to nuts - nuts, nuts oils, nut pastes. I watch everything from the obvious containing nuts or pastes, but I also have to watch oils like almond flavored cake or icing, etc. Watch in places you would never think of, too. My daughter had a reaction to Bath, and Body Works hand cream, and after reading the label (there are no warnings on their products) I learned there were macadamia nuts in it - never thought of that!!

Alert your son's caregivers and teachers, too. I have provided my daughter's school and caregiver with information regarding allergies, and how certain things are absolute "NO NO'S" when it comes to feeding her. I would also be calling the doctor every single day until they respond, and if they don't, find another doctor. Allergies are not to be taken lightly, as they can result in serious consequences for the child if not attended to. They should not have to "check into it". They should have been prepared to answer your concerns! We use Rainbow Pediatrics in New Albany - call them. They are wonderful! And their nurse line answers your question RIGHT THEN, when you call.

My daughter takes a Claritin daily, which helps control her allergy symptoms. I DO NOT use Benadryl - it causes her to get very sleepy and makes her very cranky. Her doctor issued an Epipen, too, and we have thankfully never had to use it. They also gave her Singulair, but with all of the recent "mess" with it I have taken her off of it (and for the better I must say).

Constant vigilance on your part will help your little one to remain safe and comfortable. Good luck to you!

Take your son to an Allergist. Hives are a sign of food allergy. It may be red dye but it could also be another food allergy. An allergist can do a scratch test on your child's back for common food allergies. Make sure to request that they test for the red dye. My children have multiple allergies. It is best to get them tested early. Good luck

B. Kemp,
Mother of 4 boys

My son gets a rash around his mouth any time he eats some thing with red dye in it. It is like everywhere his saliva hits turns in to a red rash for a few days. I try and avoid the foods that I know will cause a problem and I also wash his face immediately after he eats some thing that could cause a problem. Have you kept a log of what your son eats and compare it to when he gets hives? If you have determined it is the red dye the only suggestion I have is to avoid those foods if you can.


Pediatricians are not any good with food or any type of allergy. You need to take your little one to an allergist. In Fort Wayne there's Ear, Nose, and Throat and The Allergy Center. Both businesses have offices on the North and South sides of town.

An allergist can tell you what to look out for, what to do when a reaction occurs, prescribe meds, and do testing for other conditions or causes. Peds are just not as thorough at allergies, so see an allergist.

I myself am allergic to red dye #40. FD & C Red #40 is 99% coal tar derivatives, which is pretty disgusting to think about. I break out in hives and get a terrible stomachache if I eat it. It is in so many things that you would not imagine it would be in, even things that are not red--some blueberry yogurts contain red #40!! I have heard of kids having a hyperactive reaction to it as well.

This dye is also in a lot of soaps/cosmetics, cleaners, detergents, etc. The best thing you can do is watch out for the dye in anything you expose your son to.

I know it's a pain to have to check ingredients, but it's necessary to avoid the reaction to it. Also, talk to your son's pediatrician about the proper dose of Benadryl, which may be necessary to control the hives. Just make sure you use the dye free formula; I believe that the pink liquid contains red #40. If you have to, have your son referred to an allergist. Good luck!

my 5 year old daughter is allergic to red food dye also. we make sure she doesn't eat anything with it in it. also, purple cabbage does the same thing to her. she only gets red welts on her face. if she does eat something that has it in it, our pediatrician told us to give her a dose of benedryl. that usually clears it up. also, i've found that is we know there is no way of avoiding the dye, we give her the benedryl beforehand, and it keeps it from showing up. hope this helps

Hi, C. --

My daughter has Red Dye #40 allergy, and every time I talk about this subject, I start getting mad. We only realized she had this allergy after she had a reaction to children's MEDICATION! Of all the ridiculous things to contain any thing extra -- especially a KNOWN allergen for children!! When my pediatrician identified that as the culprit, I was absolutely furious! We'd always purchased dye-free products for her but had gone to a different grocery store where they'd not been available and just picked up a different version of her usual medicine -- I think I was Children's Advil.

Anyway, it's utterly stupid that any colorants would be used in products for INFANTS, as if those babies care what color their meds are!!

So, we have learned to be very aware of the ingredients in things, and yes, we do have to read packaging. Red dye is everywhere... even in things like "fruit snacks" and things where you'd not think it would possibly be necessary. Obviously, punch and other stuff like that has red dye, and candies do, as well. Medications are one culprit people probably don't often think of.

My daughter is now 3, and she's very aware that she should not have these red products, so I don't worry too much. If someone offers her something that's on her no-red list, she'll ask for something of a different color - even if it's an M&M or sweet thing she'd like to have.

I don't know how dangerous the allergy is -- I'd suspect not very, and they may grown out of it -- but hives are no fun. I hope this has helped you. It would still be good to pursue this with your pediatrician, but I wouldn't feel too worried... just get in the habit of being a red-spotter, and you should be fine. Apparently, RED 40 is different than other variants of red colorant. There's another sister product of Yellow that I believe is also related. We mainly just worry about the red, and she's been fine.

Take care,

HI C.,
Look up NAET on the web. It is a treatment with wonderful results. I go to Karen Marshall in Fishers. Her number is ###-###-####.
Good Luck,

Hi C.-

I have a 3 1/2 year old that is allergic to red-dye. We found this out when she was only a few month old. I give her Zyrtec (per the peds advice) and we just give her NOTHING that has red dye in it. It's a pain in the butt to read everything but in order to avoid the hives we have to. And you don't think of the items that aren't red would have red dye in them... but grape juice, blue suckers, fruit snacks... it's crazy the items that have red-dye in them.

If you want you can email me- ____@____.com

Take Care,
mommy 2 twin girls- Hannah and Gracie :)

the red dye makes me hyper, even though now as an adult it takes alot to make a difference. but both the red and orange dye seems to affect my two year old almost immediately with goofy behavior and hyperactivity. one minute she was calmly eating jello in her highchair (with red dye in it) and the next she was putting it on her head laughing hysterically...normal kid behavior, indeed, but not normal for her. i don't have any suggestions, but confirmation that yes, it can really affect kids.

I'm alergic to Red 40.
That is the most common dye they use in things and is probably whats causing the reaction.
Just check lables for any red dye. If you are in a rush at the store, stay away from anything red, blue or purple in color.
If in doubt.. read the lable ^_^
good luck with it..
it is a very very tough alergy to have.

My sister was allergic to red and yellow dye when she was younger. The good thing is there is a good chance he'll outgrow it. But, for now, the best thing is to just read those labels!

I think the reason the tests would not work for red dye is that it is not a true allergy--it is a toxic reaction and some of us are more sensitive to toxins. I consider myself and others like me to be like the canarys in the coal mine--we let everyone else know what they should NOT put in their body. Did you know that dyes are made from coal tar and petroleum products? You DO NOT out grow sensitivites to toxins--you may have less reaction but that does not mean they are okay to use. Also be careful at the dentist--I cannot handle the topical use of red dyes that are in some products they use. If you shop at a Health food store or co-op and buy only natural products it will be better for everyone in your family. If your little one still has some problems then go for testing to see if he is allergic to anything natural--or much cheaper simply do an elimination diet. The most common allergies are cow milk protein, gluten (in wheat, rye, oats spelt), eggs, corn, nuts and peanuts. There are several good books on allergy elimination diets.

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