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"Can a Barium Swallow cause an allergic reaction?"


I am a 26 year old guy and I'm allergic to a million things. I am afraid to do a barium swallow because I don't think it's safe. How can I know for sure?


Although difficult to answer without taking a thorough history, including your different allergies and exactly what the response is to each when exposed. For this reason I would discuss your concerns with the physician who ordered your barium swallow. However I can give you some general information on allergy (in particular food allergy), and give you my 2 cents on the matter.

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First of all a true "allergic" response is when the body has an adverse immune response to an allergen. In particular a food allergy (since you are swallowing the barium), is typically a hyper-reactive immune response to a protein (most common) in food. The small intestine has something called IgE (immunoglobulin) which will bind to undigested proteins, or fragments of proteins and identify them as harmful. This sets off a cascade of events which are in place to help protect the host/person from the potentially harmful food (protein). The immune system is then able to maintain a "memory" of what that offending allergen looked like, and the next time the body is exposed to it, it will be able to make anti-bodies against it much faster and in greater numbers. Unfortunately the immune system isn't perfect, and so sometimes IgE's made against a pathogenic allergen are cross reactive to regular foods. This is what happens in a food allergy. Most of the time when people say they have a food allergy, it is actually a food intolerance which is a different process altogether. In your case barium is inert, and not typically something that people have an allergic reaction to. However, a physician can potentially give you a very small test dose to gauge your response in a monitored setting. So my recommendations is to talk to the physician that ordered the test, and if they don't know, or aren't comfortable giving you a trial depending on your allergy history, they may decide to refer you to an allergist. Hope this helps.

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