As with other food allergies, the best way to manage a soy allergy is to avoid consuming products that contain soy.
Soy is one of the eight allergens that fall under the labeling requirements of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. This means that manufacturers of packaged food items sold in the United States and containing soy or a soy-based ingredient must state, in clear language, the presence of soy in the product.
Soy or derivatives of soy are found in some infant formulas, canned broths, soups, canned tuna, processed meats and hot dogs, energy bars, baked goods and many other processed foods. Soy also is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine and is sometimes contained in chicken nuggets, low-fat peanut butter, alternative nut butters and even vodka. People with a soy allergy should not consume soy milk, soy yogurt or ice cream, edamame, miso, tempeh and tofu.
Most individuals allergic to soy can safely consume highly refined soybean oil. Ask your allergist about avoiding this ingredient. Also, be cautious when eating foods that have been fried in any type of oil, due to the risk of cross-contact: If a soy-containing food is fried in oil, that oil will absorb certain soy proteins; if a different food that doesn’t contain soy is then fried in that same oil, consuming it could trigger an allergic reaction.
People with a soy allergy often can eat foods that contain soy lecithin — a mixture of fatty substances derived from soybean processing. If you have a soy allergy, ask your allergist if soy lecithin is safe for you.
People with a soy allergy sometimes wonder if they should also avoid peanuts — another legume that is a common allergy trigger. The answer is “not necessarily.” They are separate foods and their allergen triggers are unrelated. Soybeans also are unrelated to tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews. Those allergic to soy are no more likely to be allergic to tree nuts or peanuts than they would be to another food.
Talk to an allergist to take control of your soy allergy and live the life you want.
Managing a severe food reaction with epinephrine
Soy is among the most common food allergens. But all food allergies can be dangerous.
Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, a severe whole-body allergic reaction that causes symptoms, including tightening of the airway. Anaphylaxis can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen, can worsen quickly, and can be deadly.
Once a food allergy diagnosis is made, your allergist likely will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector and teach you how to use it. Check the expiration date of your auto-injector, note the expiration date on your calendar and ask your pharmacy about reminder services for prescription renewals.
Be sure to have two doses available, as the severe reaction may recur. Epinephrine should be used immediately if you experience severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, weak pulse, generalized hives, tightness in the throat, trouble breathing or swallowing, or a combination of symptoms from different body areas such as hives, rashes or swelling on the skin coupled with vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. Repeated doses of epinephrine may be necessary.
If you are uncertain whether a reaction warrants epinephrine, use it right away, because the benefits of epinephrine far outweigh the risk that a dose may not have been necessary.
Common side effects of epinephrine may include transient anxiety, restlessness, dizziness and shakiness. Rarely, the medication can lead to an abnormal heart rate or rhythm, a heart attack, a sharp increase in blood pressure and fluid buildup in the lungs, but these adverse effects are generally caused by errors in dosing which is unlikely to occur with use of epinephrine autoinjectors. Patients with certain pre-existing conditions who may be at higher risk for adverse effects should speak to their allergist about epinephrine use.
Your allergist will provide you with a written emergency treatment plan that outlines which medications should be administered and when (note that between 10 and 20 percent of life-threatening severe allergic reactions have no skin symptoms). Be sure you understand how to properly and promptly use an epinephrine auto-injector.
Once epinephrine has been administered, immediately call 911 and inform the dispatcher that epinephrine was given and that more may be needed from the emergency responders.
Other medications, such as antihistamine and corticosteroids, may be prescribed to treat mild symptoms of a food allergy, but it is important to note that there is no substitute for epinephrine — this is the only medication that can reverse the life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Managing soy allergies in children
Because soy allergy reactions, like other food allergy symptoms, can develop when a child is not with his or her parents, parents need to make sure that their child’s school, day care or other program has a written emergency action plan with instructions on preventing, recognizing and managing these episodes in class and during activities such as sporting events and field trips. A nonprofit group, Food Allergy Research & Education, has a list of resources for schools, parents and students in managing food allergies.
If your child has been prescribed an auto-injector, be sure that you and those responsible for supervising your child understand how to use it.
This page was reviewed and updated as of 4/9/2019.