Last Updated on September 7, 2023 by Shari Mason
Onions are a staple ingredient in many cuisines worldwide, known for their strong flavor and versatility in a wide range of dishes. However, some people may experience an allergic reaction to onions, ranging from mild to severe.
While many people may assume that all onions are the same regarding allergies, there is a difference between red and white onions when it comes to causing allergic reactions.
So can you be allergic to red onion and not white? Let’s find out.
Can Someone Be Allergic To Red Onion But Not White Onion?
Yes. Someone can be allergic to red onion but not white onion. While red and white onions are members of the Allium family, they differ in taste and appearance.
The proteins in red onions may differ from those in white onions , which could account for the difference in allergic reactions.
Additionally, some people may have an allergy to a specific compound in red onions, such as quercetin, which is not present in white onions.
“It doesn’t matter how precisely the onion is cut as long as the person chewing it is happy.”– Padma Lakshmi, Indian-American Writer
However, it’s important to note that individual allergies can vary widely, and some may be more sensitive to certain varieties of onions than others.
Suppose you suspect you have an onion allergy. In that case, it’s essential to consult with an allergist to determine which specific type of onion you are allergic to or any other foods or substances you should avoid.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Onion Allergy?
- Skin reactions: Allergic reactions to onions can cause hives, rashes, or eczema. Skin reactions may appear as red, itchy bumps or patches on the skin.
- Swelling: Onion allergies can cause swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. This swelling can make it difficult to breathe, speak, or swallow.
- Respiratory symptoms: In some cases, onion allergies can cause respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing. These symptoms may be especially severe in people with asthma.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: Allergic reactions to onions can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramping.
- Anaphylaxis: In rare cases, onion allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can cause swelling of the throat, rapid heartbeat, drop in blood pressure, and difficulty breathing. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention.
What Are The Differences Between Red & White Onions?
- Color: Red onions have reddish-purple skin, and white onions have white or light yellow skin.
- Taste: Red onions are slightly sweeter and milder in flavor than white onions, which have a more intense and sharp taste.
- Texture: Red onions are usually juicy and crispy than white onions.
- Use: Red onions  are often used in salads or as a garnish due to their color, while white onions are more commonly used in cooked dishes like soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Nutritional content: Red onions are higher in antioxidants and flavonoids than white onions, which may provide some health benefits.
How Can You Manage An Onion Allergy?
- Avoidance: The best way to manage an onion allergy is to avoid onions and any dishes that contain them. Read food labels carefully and ask about ingredients when eating out at restaurants or other people’s homes.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector: If you have a severe onion allergy, you may want to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) with you at all times in case of a severe allergic reaction.
- Seek medical attention: If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor may recommend allergy testing to determine which specific type of onion you are allergic to or any other foods or substances you should avoid.
- Consider alternative spices and flavorings: If you cannot eat onions, consider using alternative spices and flavorings to add flavor to your food. Some options include garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, or turmeric.
- Be mindful of cross-contamination: If you live with someone who eats onions, be mindful of cross-contamination in the kitchen. Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and cookware to avoid exposure to onion residue.
What causes red onion allergy?
The exact cause of red onion allergy is not well understood, but it is thought to be due to an allergic reaction to specific proteins or chemical compounds found in red onions. Quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in red onions but not as much in white onions, has been suggested as a possible cause of red onion allergy.
Some people may also be sensitive to other compounds in red onions, such as sulfur or enzymes. Additionally, some people may develop an allergic reaction to red onions after prolonged or repeated exposure to the vegetable.
How do you know if you’re allergic to onions?
Symptoms of an onion allergy may include skin reactions, swelling of the face or throat, respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.
If you suspect an onion allergy, seeking medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment is essential.
Someone can be allergic to red onion but not white onion. While both types of onions belong to the Allium family, they have differences in taste, appearance, and the proteins and compounds they contain.
Some people may be more sensitive to the specific proteins or compounds found in red onions, which can trigger an allergic reaction.
However, individual allergies can vary widely, and some may be more sensitive to certain varieties of onions than others.
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