Allergies and Allergic Reaction Before, During and After Chemotherapy

UPDATE – since writing this post I have heard from so many people who have developed severe allergies 2 to 3 years out from chemo.  Apparently it is not uncommon just from the letters I have received.

It’s been rather a lonely ride as to one aspect of the many side effects and residual effects of Chemotherapy.  I developed severe food allergies and other allergies during and after Chemotherapy.  Previous to Chemo, I had none of these.

After Infusion #2 of my first Chemo drug, Adriamycin and Cytoxan, I developed a mucus cough.  At first I thought I had a cold.  Then I thought it was a sinus infection.  My Medical Oncologist and his staff thought it was mucousitis because of irritation to my sinuses and esophagus.  It continued and then started getting worse.  I had been tested for lung mestastes and other lung issues.  I had none.

After 9 weeks of Adriamycin and Cytoxan Chemo, I began Taxol.  While receiving the Taxol infusion, the cough would be worse. But I was not having enough of an allergic reaction for the Chemo Nurses to stop the infusion.   I put 3 Hall’s cough drops in my mouth so I wouldn’t drive everyone nuts from my chronic and loud coughing in the Infusion Center.  Usually, when I got home from receiving Taxol, the mucus would increase dramatically to the point I would sometimes throw up.  Then I would notice that the next few days I would be better probably because of the steroids I had received.

One night on a no nausea Chemo day, I ate pizza with thick crust.  Before I got home from the restaurant, I was coughing so hard nothing would control it.  By the time I got home, I was throwing up and felt like I needed to call 911.   It finally dawned on me that I was suffering from food allergies to probably wheat.

To make a long story short, by trial and elimination, I discovered I had developed allergies to wheat and dairy products, along with many outdoor allergens and possibly my cat.  I know I have several other food allergies, like some vinegars, many seasonings including MSG, corn starch and many other unknown items.  As long as my diet consists of fruits, vegetables, brown rice and unseasoned meats, I feel fine.   Salad dressings can be some of the worst offenders I’ve discovered. Also deli meats contain fillers.  In fact, at my grocery store, Kroger, I was told that nothing in the deli is gluten free.  It is extremely difficult to eat at restaurants because the waitress or chef don’t know what’s in the food!!.

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On the Breast Cancer Discussion boards, I have met just a couple of women who have developed food allergies during Chemo.  As my Medical Oncologist said, it is rare but it does happen.   Also, I met a woman at a health food store whose friend developed allergies during Chemo.  If you are reading this because you have or think you have developed allergies during Chemo, I would love to hear from you.  Please contact me at b4Denise@hotmail.com   UPDATE:   I am now 6 months post last chemo, and I am  happy to report that most allergies are gone!!  I started reintroducing things slowly.  I still have to watch eating a lot of gluten at once, but a little is okay.  FURTHER UPDATE:  Allergies started coming back after 6 additional months…back at ground zero.

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35 comments

  1. these last 2 blogs are very intersting and well written…am sure the AMA will be wanting to tap you for a contribution re patient insights!!….an FYI, Mrs Bassett at Bassetts on Secor and Claudia at Claudia’s also on Secor just north of Sylvania are both very knowledgeable re diet and dietary assists/supplements…both worth a conversation some day when you are bored (ha) and out on the west side….hubby has found relief of GI distresses related to medication from both….20# wt loss is always fun…or at least a good end to some yucky means:-)

  2. Hi Denise,

    I found out today I have an egg white allergy. I finished chemo for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the early part of June and shortly after started having problems after eating eggs. I had to have Nupogen and Neulasta shots throughout chemo and now I am wondering if that has something to do with it since it pumps up the immune system so much.

    • Hi Ashley – congratulations for finishing chemo. And by the way, my ex-brother-in-law is a 35 year
      survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He had chemo back in the 1970s. He has the horror stories!
      You know, Ashley, I never thought of the Neulasta shots and the allergies! I only had Neulasta and not Nupogen.
      That could be a real possibility. I am going to check into that and see what I come up with. My
      allergies have subsided alot now. I finished chemo in May. I hope yours get better as well. Thank you
      so much for letting me know about this. If I find out anything, I will email you! Denise

      • I’m an eight year survivor of Ewing’s Sarcoma and was too treated with Neulasta. I can handle egg whites fine, but the yolks make my stomach hurt for hours I eat them. I just found your blog while searching “allergies after chemotherapy” because I think my seasonal allergies have gotten way worse over the last few years and wondered if there was a link to something I was treated with.

      • Hi Karen,
        I have the same problem when I eat eggs- my stomach hurts. The more I eat, or the rawer the form (such as licking the brownie batter bowl), the worse the pain and the longer the pain lasts. I noticed my lower back, the right and left side, also hurts, almost worse than my stomach. I don’t break out in hives or have any other symptoms, though I think my heart rate increases.

        Something tells me the neulasta/neupogen are what contributed to my allergies, though I’ll probably never know for sure. Perhaps our experiences getting allergies when we didn’t have any prior to treatment may even help researchers figure out what exactly causes the body to develop allergies in the first place. That thought gives me hope.

      • Karen and Ashley, thanks so much for sharing your stories. Honestly, I always
        thought chemo was the culprit! I have not studied Neulasta/Neupogen shots can
        be the culprit of our allergies! I so much appreciate your bringing this to
        our attention!
        Karen, I am always thrilled to hear of survivors of Ewings Sarcoma as I know
        a 22 yr old and a 10 year old who just finished their treatments.
        My best to you!! Denise

  3. Hi Denise,
    I’m a ten year survivor of a brain tumor, and I developed lots of allergies after my treatment as well. I’ve finally figured out that one of them is to dairy (can’t believe it took me so long!) Anyway, nice to know we’re not alone. I came across this post while looking for some resources. Thanks!

  4. I finished my chemo for a Small Blue Round Cell Sarcoma in November of 2010. And over the last 2 years I am quite certain that I have an allergy or sensitivity to eggs. I am trying to get a doctor to send me to an allergist but it is like pulling teeth! lol Somethings I can have, like Egg Nog, but most others I cannot, like plain eggs, cupcakes, lemon pie, and most batters. I still find things that I can’t have everyday. Very frustrating, but I am glad to know that I am not alone and not crazy regaurding the chemo and allergy being related.
    Charity

  5. I just found your blog. I finished chemo in July of 2011, but within the past 6 months I’ve developed terrible allergies. I had both food and hayfever testing at the allergist, which showed an allergy (ies) to wheat, all tree nuts, a few fruits, dogs (of which I have 5) and dust mites. This is all new. I literally never had any allergies prior to chemo.

    My worst appears to be food allergies, and I become allergic to more things each day. I went to an ENT originally because of burning in my mouth and on my tongue, and he sent me to an allergist.

    This morning all I had was a cup of organic green tea and my tongue and lips are burning, eyes are burning, ears are itchy, congestion, sore throat. I’m miserable. I really should have called the allergist to get in, but I kept thinking it would go away.

    Every day is like this-I rarely have a day without mouth pain because something always flares it up. My entire family is tired of me talking about it, but it’s all I can think of.

    Allergy meds like Zyrtec and Benadryl do nothing at all.

    • Oh Kim, I AM SO SORRY to hear of your allergies well after Chemo. That is just craziness.
      It does consume you because it takes over your life. Mine have improved greatly, but I still
      have to watch it. Allegra did give me a little bit of relief. Benadryl did not work for me.
      If this allergist can’t help, I would recommend going to one at a major university hospital.
      Please keep us posted if you can! My best, Denise

  6. Hi! I found your website after I started looking to see if anyone else had the experience of new allergies after chemo. Glad to hear some of them may go away! I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma (DLBCell) and some of the same drugs in my R-CHOP regimen. I had figured out that I had a gluten intolerance before I started chemo (Its a risk factor for lymphoma). I wanted to determine my allergies so I wouldn’t stir up my immune response unnecessarily and my lymphoma (a cancer of the immune cells). Some of my allergies are IGE (probably there before chemo?) And some are IGG often caused by leaky gut. I don’t know if the chemo caused the gut breaches or Candida. I’ve found out that some foods can cause it because of enzymes they contain that survive cooking(eggs). I should say that I had no previous allergy testing, except for an intestinal barrier which was possibly more for intolerances. Since chemo I have a long list of foods, some of which are ones other family members also have, others were to foods that I ate fairly regularly during chemo. I relied heavily on oats and eggs and now cannot eat them based on test results. I am tryimg to avoid

  7. I was diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency in 2005 which led to small lymphocytic lymphoma in 2008. In 2009 the lymphoma flared up and I received four months of chemo with cytoxin, fluderabine, and rituxin followed by two years of maintenance rituxin. I now have to give myself neupogen shots to keep my WBC count up as a result from chemo. I also get IV gamma globulin once a month to boost my immune system. In 2010 I could not eat mushrooms or fish without severe vomiting and diarrhea. Last year I became intolerant to milk products, not just lactose intolerant. This year I have become gluten intolerant. Has anyone experienced this same reaction years after chemo or with other medications?

    • Diana – I have heard from several people who were years out from chemo and developed allergies. Some developed them right away and others 3 to 5 years later. So it definitely is not unheard of although I do believe it is rare. If I hear from anyone, I will notify you! Thanks for posting to help others!

  8. Hi I just stumbled across your site. I completed chemo 3 years ago. Breast cancer at age 36. As a child I had many allergies but outgrew them. I have recently been breaking out in hives and they are becoming more frequent. I had never heard of chemo and allergies until now. I am waiting for allergy testing. Even after taking allergy medications yesterday at 3:00 I broke out in hives again at 9:00. It is very stressful.

  9. I am 6 years pot-chemo for breast cancer. When I was 3 years post chemo I developed skin issues which were diagnosed as dishydrotic eczema. After three more years and numerous doctor visits and expensive steroid creams I have finally found out (on my own) that I am wheat intolerant. I now eat a gluten free diet and my skin has improved dramatically. Wondering if anyone else has had this develop after chemo an do you think there is a connection.

    • I have had many emails from people who have developed gluten/wheat intolerance
      after chemo (some 3 to 6 years later). Can’t prove there is a connection, but
      it sure seems to be from my vantage point.

    • I am 7 years post-chemo for breast cancer and developed dishydrotic eczema last year and also discovered I have become gluten intolerant. My metal allergies have gotten worse and I keep a runny nose…I have had several other skin issues pop up and have always assumed they were unrelated…now, I’m not so sure. I see my oncologist in September and plan to ask about a connection. It’s very frustrating to deal with all the issues that seem to keep popping up…

      • Hi – your Oncologist might deny that there is a connection. I hear this quite often from cancer survivors.
        But yet, I certainly hear from so many who suddenly develop intolerances years after chemo! Also, heard
        from a woman last week who also had skin issues. I’m sure not all are from chemo, but I would venture to
        say, many are!! Wishing you my best! Denise

  10. Diagnosed with rectal cancer 12/2009. Chemo everyday by way of what the called a baby bottle thru port and radiation 5 days a wk for 6 weeks. 8/2010 delcared cancer free. Drank 4 herb tea (essaic) to protect myself during chemo. Also took colloid silver (mesosilver brand) for infection after 2010 surgery. Had heavy sinus infection that mesosilver cleared. Now for past year finding I am sensitive to anything with dairy or caffine (chocolate, too). I just starting to feel better. Have my rectum still.

    • Anna, congratulations on being cancer free. You went through so much!
      And good for you for doing a lot of holistic things in addition to treatment.
      I hear from many people who are 5 years out from chemo just getting allergies.
      Very strange. My gluten/wheat allergy went away for awhile, but came back full
      barrels.
      I so much appreciate your posting and letting us know. Denise

      • started searching food allergy because when I went to a ct last week sat next to a girl who has food reactions just like me (dairy,fruit juice, chocolate, caffeine to name a few). She did not get chemo or radiation. She has to take a pill for a rare type of stomach cancer. Trying to make a connection. The correlation I see is that cancer below the waist does not lose hair with chemo/rad. We do suffer with bowel problems. I mentioned to her I’m constantly running high liver enzymes. My son also has it (15 yr old). My oncologist said in Oct. that it maybe from chemo. I do not think so. I think taking drugs like advil and immodium often. My son was taking both often too before his blood test as myself. Any suggestions on anything would be thoroughly looked at by me. Above I mentioned meso silver because my surgeon at Sloan Kettering said I had less infections than most of his patients. He never treated me with an antibiotic because I used meso silver. (not to be taken by anyone with a silver allergy). He tried to change the protocol to include it for patients with no success. I mention ESSAIC. It to view on youtube see here (suppose to kill cancer cells) http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=rene+caisse%3A+essaic+cancer+cure&oq=rene+caisse%3A+essaic+cancer+cure&gs_l=youtube.3…47547.61625.0.61828.31.28.0.3.3.0.922.4218.11j10j5j6-1.27.0.eytns%2Cpt%3D-40%2Cn%3D2%2Cui%3Dt..0.0…1ac.1.11.youtube.VBlXUHTWjIM

  11. I have been wracking my brain trying to determine what is wrong with me. I was diagnosed 2 years ago with Her2 pos Breast Cancer. I received Taxotere, Carboplatin, Avastin and Herceptin. Ever since I finished chemo, I have muscle pain in both my upper arms and joint pain in my left shoulder, left big toe and right elbow. I also have increased gas with frequent loose stools in the morning. Previously, I was diagnosed with IBS, but I am beginning to think I am allergic to a food source. I have read that allergies to gluten can cause joint pain. I have never had an allergy in my life (I could literally roll in poison ivy and not get it)Two months ago, I took a Celebrex and immediately began severe itching, my tongue swelled up and I had diarrhea and vomiting. I never had any allergic reaction before. I am beginning to think that chemo changed my immune system and has caused my body to react to substances I could ingest before, as foreign matter. When I last saw my oncologist and mentioned muscle pain, he laughed it off and said it is old age. I am just 61. I have my next appointment with him in a few weeks and I am going to let him know, that this is not old age! I do believe there are lasting effects from chemo!!

  12. Hi Denise,
    I am 18 years cancer free, I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. I began having allergic reactions to peanuts after my second round of chemo which consisted of ARA-C,
    all trans retinoic acid, idarubicin and daunorubicin. Unfortunately, my allergy has only gotten worse with each reaction. I’ve learned to manage it through the years and was curious to see if anyone has had the same reaction to these drugs.

    Sandy

  13. Chemotherapy just destroys the gut flora, just in the same way that antibiotics do- damages the mucosal linings in the gut and predisposes you to candida overgrowth and leaky gut. Then because undigested proteins are getting through the permeable intestine (leaky gut) antibodies are then set up to destroy the invader food. So you end up with allergies. Horrendous !

  14. I know this post is from a while ago but I just found this particular post as I was looking for information on post chemo food sensitivities. I am two years out and struggling with how certain foods make me feel. I use the word “food” lightly in that I have bad reactions to alcohol (which I almost never drink) and sugar. Again I try to limit sugar as well. I don’t know if I consider them allergies so much as sensitivities but does seem like others experience it as well. Not just in my head. 🙂

    • I hear from so many women about food sensitivities several years out from chemo. It doesn’t
      have to be full-blown allergies, but food sensitivities are really common from my experiences.
      It is kind of a trial and error thing to find out what bothers you! And no, not just in your head!

  15. Thank you sooooo much. I feel so much better now, knowing it may be related to my Cancer. I was diagnosed with Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma march 2014 and finished 6 rounds of RCHOP Chemo with Neulasta shots. I became severely anemic and then had weekly iron infusions for about 2 months. After which, I developed a critical allergy to my Blood Pressure medicine & now carry Benedryl & an epipen. Recently believe I’ve developed a gluten intolerance and am seeing a gastrointerologist & scheduled for a upper endoscopy & colonoscopy. I could find little information about the relation of allergies to Cancers and just feel better knowing that I’m not alone.

    • Hi Pat, I have heard from many more Lymphoma patients who have been through RCHOP
      and developed allergies, so you are definitely not alone. And we all seemed to have
      Neulasta shots, too. I hear from some people who develop allergies right away and others
      many years later.
      My severe gluten intolerance got better for a very short time, but it is back with a vengeance now.
      My dairy allergy has improved — I still have a slight reaction, but nothing like it was a year ago.
      And unfortunately, often our Oncologists don’t give us much direction about the allergies.
      GOOD LUCK to you…and we are out here!! Denise

  16. I had chemo for breast cancer in 2007. I had previously suffered from mild IBS for my entire adult life, but the treatments made the IBS pain horrific, definitely the worst part of the experience. In the years immediately following, the IBS seemed to be completely gone, but then gradually returned, with flare-ups eventually becoming severe enough that I could identify some immediate causes, including aspartame and MSG. Then in 2015 (nearly 8 years after the chemo) I rapidly developed multiple IGG-type food allergies. A LEAP blood test revealed allergies to pretty much everything that I consumed regularly, including all grains, dairy, chicken, beef, tea, tomatoes, potatoes, squash and melons, and various other fruits, veggies, and nuts, along with many common additives like food colorings and preservatives. Leaky gut, probably with candida infection, was the most helpful diagnosis. Got the symptoms under control with an elimination diet, followed by avoiding all trigger foods and taking herbal supplements to calm the gut, aid digestion, and support the liver. It also helps a lot to avoid alcohol, added sugars, and added fats and oils. (Sugars and oils that are intrinsic to whole foods, like the sugars in fruits and the oils in fish, seem to be OK for now.) Staying on a very strict rotation diet with the few foods I have left has slowed down the development of new allergies, but has not stopped it altogether. I am getting to the point of relying on exotic foods like crocodile, papaya, and Brazil nuts. My latest new allergies have been IGE-type oral allergic reactions, and I am beginning to fear becoming allergic to all foods and having to live with the severe IBS symptoms.

    Does anyone have suggestions for getting the immune system calmed down to the point of not developing new reactions?

    • Kitty – I SO MUCH appreciate your posting. OH MY, yours is the worse story I have heard
      about allergies and IBS after chemo! I am grateful that you shared your story. I think many
      people have no idea it is related!
      Thank you for the tips about foods, etc! I am having more flare-ups and need to have more testing.
      I hope someone else responds to you that can be of help! My best, Denise

  17. I have severe tree allergies. I had shots for five years which greatly helped me. Five years ago I had bread cancer with chemo and radiation. Now I’m having severe allergies again. Red swollen skin above and below eyes. Constant itching etc. I’m wondering if the treatments somehow wiped out the allergy shot benefits.

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