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Salicylate allergy

Salicylates are an ingredient in aspirin, and some people can have allergic reactions to aspirin and salicylates.

Salicylate allergy symptoms can range from mild reactions, such as hives or a runny nose, to more severe reactions causing breathing problems.

A person who is allergic or intolerant to aspirin may also be affected by other pain relief medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen.

As well as being sold as tablets, aspirin can be an ingredient in some cold and flu remedies and other pain relief products.

Aspirin may also be found in some antacids, inflammatory bowel disease medicine and some complementary and alternative medicines.

Aside from allergy concerns, aspirin must not be given to under 16s because of the risk of liver damage from Reyes syndrome.

Salicylate allergy symptoms

Some people have a low level of tolerance to salicylates and may have reactions if more than a small amount is consumed at one time. Symptoms of salicylate sensitivity vary but may include:

In severe cases, salicylate sensitivity can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction involving a severe drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and organ system failure. Avoiding products that contain salicylates is the best defence against a reaction.

Salicylates can be found in food, medication and cosmetics. Some examples of salicylate-containing substances include:

Foods that contain salicylates

Products that may contain salicylates

Salicylate-containing ingredients

Fruits such as apples, avocados, blueberries, dates, kiwi fruit, peaches, raspberries, figs, grapes, plums, strawberries, cherries, grapefruit and prunes

Vegetables such as alfalfa sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, broad beans, aubergine, spinach, courgettes, broccoli and hot peppers

Some cheeses

Herbs, spices and condiments, such as dry spices and powders, tomato pastes and sauces, vinegar, and soy sauce, jams and jellies

Beverages such as coffee, wine, beer, orange juice, apple cider, Indian and herbal teas, rum and sherry

Nuts, such as pine nuts, peanuts, pistachios and almonds

Some sweets, such as peppermints, liquorice and mint-flavoured gum, and breath mints

Ice cream, gelatine

Fragrances and perfumes

Shampoos and conditioners

Herbal remedies

Cosmetics such as lipsticks, lotions and skin cleansers

Mouthwash and mint-flavoured toothpaste

Shaving cream

Sunscreens or tanning lotions

Muscle-pain creams



Acetylsalicylic acid

Artificial food colouring and flavouring


Beta hydroxy acid

Magnesium salicylate



Salicylic acid


Phenylethyl salicylate

Sodium salicylate


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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 20, 2015

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