12 Signs Your Family Has Food Coloring Sensitivity

If you’ve ever wondered if food coloring affects your family’s health or behavior, check out my short list of symptoms that follows.  This is not the total list of all symptoms that arise with the ingestion of food dyes, but it’s a collection of the most common problems I’ve seen. Unfortunately, there is no allergy test for dye sensitivity, so you’ll have to use old-fashioned observation – More on that below…  

The food dyes I’m referring to are petroleum-based and will be listed on an ingredient label as Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, etc.  However, please note that some natural colorants like carmine and annatto cause serious reactions in sensitive people, too.

12 Signs Your Family Has Food Coloring Sensitivity

Do you or anyone in your family exhibit these signs of dye sensitivity?

1.  Hyperactivity:  Can’t stop moving, runs most of the time, constant movement of hands and feet.

2.  Lack of attention:  Cannot focus either at home or school – without affecting all areas of life all the time (not ADD).

3.  Sleep problems:   Has a hard time settling down for sleep, or has sleep disturbances throughout the night.

4.  Mood swings:  Unexplained emotional problems, hours-long tantrums, inconsolable crying, paranoia, and meltdowns over tiny things or schedule changes.

5.  Violence/Aggression:  Biting, spitting, growling, hitting, kicking, and uncharacteristic mean talk.

6.  Lack of impulse control:  Increase in risky behaviors, excessive talking at inappropriate times, loud talking, disruptive, interrupts people a lot, hard to transition from one activity to another, does not adjust behavior in response to discipline.

7.  The Ickies:  Headaches, stomach aches, and vomiting.

8.  Bed-wetting:  This includes daytime wetting, well past the age of toilet training.

9.  Skin ailments:  Eczema and hives.  My daughter had eczema and cradle cap before we eliminated dyes.

10. Breathing problems:  Some kids require an inhaler due to dye-induced asthma.

11. Compulsiveness:  Pulls out hair, eyelashes or eyebrows, picks at skin, repeats certain actions numerous times.

12. Not consistent: This is the single most important clue to watch for.  Can you give your kid sugary treats without problems some days, but then other times, they freak out?  Our clue was our daughter’s hyperactivity after eating sugar-free pudding that we later discovered had red dye.

We eliminated the ten symptoms my daughter had, out of these twelve, just by removing food coloring from our diet.

She is still a kid, and has moments of upset like anyone else, but she copes so much better now, and the upsets go away quickly.  Those days of nuclear explosions are long gone.  Any parent of a dye-sensitive kid will tell you that their dye reactions are NOT normal kid behavior.  And most of them will joyfully relate their own story of how different their kids act after becoming dye-free.

I’ve found that different colors cause varying symptoms for different dye-sensitive people.  For example, yellow dyes may cause hyperactivity in Kid A, eczema in Kid B, and vomiting for Kid C.  Some kids can tolerate blue and yellow dyes without symptoms, but react fiercely to red dyes.  More complicated still is the fact that most petroleum food dyes don’t exist alone in any given food.  They are mixed with other colors, plus petroleum-derived preservatives like Sodium Benzoate, BHT, BHA, and TBHQ.  Much more research is needed on how the consumption of several dyes and preservatives affects the human body over a lifetime.

Some food for thought…I’ve recently met more and more parents whose dye-sensitive kids started out as severely dairy-allergic babies.  Some parents note that the once life-threatening anaphylactic symptoms of babyhood have seemingly morphed into behavioral problems after they thought their child had outgrown a dairy allergy.  There is a theory that the added vitamins in cow’s milk are kept from spoiling by the use of petroleum-based preservatives – which do not have to be listed on the ingredient label.  My own dye-sensitive kid had abrupt and scary allergic reactions to milk as a baby. This theory fascinates me, and I’d love to learn more.

Also, I recently read that most people – kids and adults alike – have at least one sensory processing disorder, whether we realize it or not.  I can totally see that, and it helps me to be more understanding of myself and others.  It’s my own opinion that petroleum dyes exacerbate those issues, such as with picky eaters, and those who are sensitive to loud noises and bright lights.  If you suspect or know that your child has a sensory processing disorder, it’s worth it to at least try avoiding synthetic food coloring.

I’ve even found theories connecting yellow dyes to carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritic symptoms.

Whether or not you have any of the symptoms, petroleum dyes are just not good for anybody.  We as adults weren’t meant to digest them, and developing kids are especially ill-equipped to deal with them.  Unfortunately, most dyed foods are marketed to kids.

What You Can Do

Try a food coloring elimination for just a week or two.   You can usually see a big difference within just a few days.  Print this easy list of “Badditives” to take shopping, or pull it up on your smart phone. Remove dyes that are hidden in your home such as in cleaning and personal care products.  Do a quick pantry purge to make sure that your family is absolutely not consuming any dyes during your elimination test.  Ask family, teachers, friends, and caregivers to refrain from offering food and drinks that are not provided by you.  Pass on face paints and temporary tattoos during your elimination period, too.

Avoid fake flavorings like “vanillin”, too, as these cause similar reactions in dye-sensitive kids.  My daughter gets the inconsolable Screaming Weepies for several hours after eating fake vanilla in dips, cereals, cookies, sauces, cheap chocolate, and drinks.

Write down what your child eats each day in a Food Mood Log, adding notes about behavior after each meal or snack.  When your child is in daycare or school, compare your Food Mood Log with the caregiver’s notes or behavior charts.  Try to spot any patterns.  Rule out other allergies with an allergist if there is no change after a dye elimination.

If you’d like to read about other parents of dye-sensitive kids to gain some insights, check out my collection of guest blogger stories.  And check out these interviews with a dye-sensitive 7-year old and a dye-sensitive teen boy.  I wrote about our own experience in Why I’m Over This Rainbow: Our Food Coloring Sensitivity Story.  Read about my discovery of my own problems with dyes in My Rainbow Connection – My Own Reactions To Food Coloring.  Dyes affect moms and dads, too.

For more help on living dye-free, register for my free discussion forum.  Users can post up questions, recipes, crafts, travel advice, resources, and favorite dye-free treat alternatives.  Visit the DFD Facebook fan page for up-to-date information and interesting content.  

Have you experienced any symptoms other than the ones I’ve listed?  Tell everyone about it in a comment below!  And please SIGN and SHARE my petition asking manufacturers to #DitchTheDyes from children’s antibiotics, allergy and cold medications, pain and fever reducers, vitamins, and toothpastes.  THANK YOU!

70 Responses to “12 Signs Your Family Has Food Coloring Sensitivity”
  1. Corey says:

    Great read! My Sugar Bear doesn’t have any of those 12 symptoms, yet I do reasonably well at avoiding the food dyes. I’m not 100%, but I make an effort. Thanks for the continued information.

    • Indie Mama says:

      Hey Corey! 🙂 You are welcome, and thanks for stopping by! Give Sugar Bear a high five from us!

      • Linda Paribello says:

        My son Is 38 and whenever he drinks fruit punch or other red liquids he gets terrible acid reflux stomach pains. He had cow milk allergies I.e., projectile vomiting as a baby. Do you think red dye could be the problem?

        • Indie Mama says:

          Wow, I have been told that some folks grow out of dye sensitivity while others definitely do not. My child had truly terrifying allergic reactions to cow’s milk too. Some folks think that the vitamins in “enriched” dairy milks require petroleum-based preservatives, which legally do not have to appear on the ingredients label. My child reacts to preservatives like she does with petroleum-based dyes. We now just drink Rice Dream organic Classic-Original (non-enriched) rice milk in shelf stable packs. I have heard from parents of other dairy-allergic kids that after their child grew out of dairy allergy, it turned into more of a behavioral reaction, and they were sensitive to dyes too. I have found this to be true for my child and myself. We are both very reactive to both cow’s milk and artificial dyes.

        • Aimee says:

          Yes, I think red dye is more than likely the problem. If you ever find out any other information, I would love to know. Fruit punch and other red liquids have made me extremely sick my entire life, and I can only figure out that it has to be because of the dye. I also have GERD, but that is a different stomach issue.

  2. L.A. says:

    My ds has 8 out of the 12 symptoms and as hard as I try, I don’t seem to catch it all the time. Of course if I could get my husband on board faithfully, life would be much easier. Since the doctors don’t see this as an issue I’m fighting an uphill battle, sometimes I take the hill and other times I back slide, but this article might just help me prove my point. Thank you so much.

    • Indie Mama says:

      L.A. I know what you mean, we still get bewildered looks from time to time. It does feel like an uphill battle sometimes. Hat’s off to you for keeping it up. You know what’s best!

    • I’d switch docs. If they can’t respect and support your parenting decisions, it’s time to find a new provider. Mine doesn’t always agree with me, or understand what I’m asking (I went in asking about SPD-like behavior, and he went down the Autism checklist instead, which I had SPECIFIED that I wasn’t worried about AT ALL (ASD is within the SPD spectrum, but SPD has broader and more “normal” symptoms and effects.) But he supports my decisions after I hear his advice, even if it’s not what he recommended.
      When I discovered that her night terrors and bizarre daytime fits went away when we cut the dyes, he put it in her chart as an allergy, no questions asked. Our pharmacy did too, but be advised – it helps to know the names of the colors, since the Red 40 and such have sneaky non-numbered names. Ones like “Allura Red” and “Brilliant Blue” are fairly obvious, but “Erythrosine B” and “Tartrazine” are sneakier. But pharmacies have them in the computer listed by their drug names, not by the food-label names, so be forewarned.

  3. Karen says:

    Our “sensitivity” is an all out allergy. Swollen lips, hives, scratchy throat. My son has had 2 reactions that i felt were enough to warrant having an epi-pen around. But when no doctor believes you………

  4. Ask at your local health food stores or breastfeeding groups, etc. for recommendations for doctors who support nutrition as a part of over all health. We found a doctor who supports being dye-free that way. Good luck!

    • Indie Mama says:

      Excellent suggestion, Brooke! I like our pediatrician but he does get that bewildered look in his eyes when I tell him that our daughter reacts badly to dyes…but he happily writes “dye-free” on our prescriptions anyways.

  5. Susan Alexander says:

    My daughter had 5 of those issues before eliminating all food dyes/flavors and preservatives. Sadly she still has 2 or 3 of them, but it’s still worth it for us. I’m thinking about going dairy and gluten free to see if either of those would help.

    • Indie Mama says:

      Susan the more I read about how cow’s milk affects so many things, the more I want to avoid it. There is a web site that was suggested to me, called GoDairyFree.org that I really like.

  6. Penny says:

    My husband and I just got our shirts in the mail today! So excited to wear them! We have no kids but I have an allergy to Red 40 so we are constantly talking to people about how bad it is for you. Recently my sister-in-law started my nieces and nephews on a dye free diet and they too are noticing a difference. I’m really looking forward to more conversations thanks to my new shirt!

  7. Laura C says:

    My daughter who is now almost 9 has a severe intolerance to food dyes (and most other artificials too) and at 3-4 years old we just didn’t know what to do and started the dye free approach after my husband told me he wasn’t allowed dyes in his diet as a child and it made a huge difference to him. We tried and within 4-5 days she was a different child. We had doctors telling us she was add, adhd, bipolar, you name it. Without the dyes, she is one of the brightest in her class and is a totally different child. If she gets even one thing with dye in it, she has a reaction. She had excema, tantrums, screaming, self harm behaviors, violent, basically all of the above. She is still very emotionally sensitive and gets upset fairly easy, but I can reason with her and calm her down which was not possible before. My youngest has only had dyes 2 or 3 times in his 5 years and we plan on keeping it that way. Thanks for the article!

  8. Reba says:

    Found you through the Feingold boards. One of our children has always been challenging. In fact, I have always avoided medication with him unless absolutely necessary because of such strong reactions he has had in the past (behavior wise). It was just recently that a friend of mine told me her kids were sensitive to dye. I had never thought about it. Soon after that, our son had a very red colored drink. The next day (his reactions seem to be about 12-18 hours delayed), it was like he was on speed. I looked in his eyes and didn’t see my sweet child in there. Soon after, I found out about FG and the dyes were the first to go. I can’t say it has fixed every issue (we are beginning to think Corn Syrup doesn’t help either) but cutting out the dyes has made a difference. Even his teacher noticed…

  9. Eva Mcleod says:

    thank you as my daughter has all 12 symptoms and as we found out on our own the difference people think we are crazy when we try to explain her sensitivity. unless they knew her before of course.

  10. Barb says:

    For years I was getting “heat hives”. I had a feeling they were related to something I was eating, but the doctors (even a specialist) disagreed. I did an elimination diet for a month, and though I continued to get them in the shower every morning, they were much fewer in number. Since they didn’t happen immediately after consuming anything, and never went completely away, it was hard to pinpoint. Eventually (back on a normal diet) I switched brands of iron supplement, and after a few months realized I was no longer getting the hives, even on a sweltering hot summer day. I switched back to the old supplement and they returned. Bingo – red 40!

    I have since discovered it in all kinds of places… spices (Wendy’s Chili), chocolate syrup (McDonald’s hot chocolate), medication (black colored capsule). I do have my allergy on record at the pharmacy, but they did not catch it.

    In Canada, food labels do not always specify which dyes, so I avoid most things with color added if they are brown or black – and anything purple, red, pink, orange which is not naturally colored that way.

  11. Christy says:

    I have a 5 year old boy whom we just took off ALL dyes 4 weeks ago. Up until then he suffered from ALL symptoms listed above, minus the bedwetting. We were at our wit’s end, trying to figure this thing out. His face would break out in hives, 6-10 at a time, covering his face. Dark, dark circles under his eyes, and extremely frequent stomach aches, followed by diarrhea. Not to mentions his extreme behavior and mood swings.

    After $700 in lab tests, 2 trips to pediatrician, and a trip to a gastro-intestinal specialist, still no clue!! We even tested him for parasites! A friend suggested it may be food dyes. My response at first was that he really doesn’t have that much dye. We shop and eat pretty healthy, or so I thought!! The more I read our labels, the more I found. SO, I cleared all of the cupboards, and we banned it. After a week, the whole family was seeing a huge improvement in all areas. By 4 weeks, we have a whole new child, he is happy and looks healthy and no more tummy aches 🙂

  12. Indigoblu says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for your site. I suffered for 18 years of 3 day intense migraines where I was bedridden, irritable, nautious and in so much pain I wanted to die. My migraines consumed my life. I had them so often I couldn’t tolerate living. Doctors couldn’t figure it out as I had MRIs cat scans and we just assumed they were related to a bad automobile acciden I was in. Doctors kept prescribing different medicines and at first I took them. I was 17. None of them worked. Painkillers put me to sleep muscle relaxers didnt help and finally they have me Tylenol with codine. I was so drugged up I said forget it I can’t live like this. I will just suffer through them. I really felt helpless. i wanted a cure not a drug. I luckily enough decided I would ride them out and take over the counter exderin which didnt help either.I chose to never take any prescriptions that were related to pain because of how drugged up I felt on something that was supposed to make me feel better. thank god. I’m sure I would be addicted to some prescribed medicine if I hadn’t made up my mind to just deal with it. I eventually discovered that every time I ate or drank my favorite flavor which is grape i was bedridden for days. As soon as I realized this I went to the grocery store and checked the ingredients of all of my favorite sodas, gum, popscicles etc. low and behold blue no 1 was in all of them. I was in shock. My favorite flavor I consumed almost everyday and it was like I miracle for the discovery. However, as I got older my allergy to blue dye has become more severe. I read all of the ingredients on everything I buy to see if it has blue in it. My reaction to this dye has gone from a 3 day migraines to an allergy that hospitalized me last year. I have to carry an epi pen now because I started going into aniphlaytic shock after drinking 16oz of raspberry ginger ale. I brought the Wrong brand and didnt realize the soda I purchased and drank had blue dye. To demonstrate how sever my allergy is a blue tiny mini M&M will cause a 3 day intense migraine. Drinking 16 0z nearly killed me. Food dye allergies are very severe as I thought I was going to die in front of my 2 kids as I called 911 because I couldn’t breathe last year. When I said it was an allergy to the dye they looked at me like I was nuts. I’m 41 and I have had this allergy since I was 17. We must watch we eat and feed our children often little things go unnoticed. In my case it escalated and after reading your site, I applaud you for sharing. I don’t feel so alone and I certainly don’t understand why food dyes are needed anyway.

  13. Lia says:

    I am very new to all of this info. Years ago a children’s doctor told me to get my son off of red and yellow dyes. The school was demanding my kids be on Ritalin but thank God the doctor said “no way” and started my researching on public schools vs. homeschooling. I wish I would have also thought more about the dye issues back then. Now I will be researching dyes! Thanks for your great website to get me started!

  14. Amanda says:

    Your article was very helpful. Many of the things you’ve stated are scientifically proven. It would really help your case if you referenced said scientific research or scholarly articles with citations. It really helps people see that this is far more than personal observation, opinion and anecdotal advice.

    This is my first visit to your site. My apologies if you’ve cited research in other posts. 🙂

  15. Robin says:

    My son is a brilliant 5 year old. This year at preschool has been very challenging b/c his behavior at school is SO different than here at home. We don’t necessarily stay away from processed food, but he chooses fruits and veggies over candy and chips at home. Because of his behavioral issues at school, we have tried rewards, discipline, time outs, jobs to distract, etc… and nothing was working. He said he just couldnt help himself from uncontrollable laughter, flicking the lights on and off, climbing on furniture, and just basically not being cooperative. We tried counseling and they saw no problem. It became apparent that his times of uncontrollable-ness were after eating lunch, and sometimes snack. So I started thinking it was a food allergy to something they were giving him at school, or possible a blood sugar factor Our doctor agreed on the food dye allergy. She recommended an all natural diet. We had also called the Autism Center and b/c he has multiple red flags, we are getting him screened for Aspergers. BUT I think its dye. I’m just starting my journey into Dye-Free living, and this board and website seem to be already a great help. The printable Badditives are going with me every time I shop. I hope this is the problem, but I will do whatever it takes to let my little boy thrive. Thanks for the information!!

    • Robin says:

      We also currently have 8 of the 12 symptoms

    • Indie Mama says:

      Hello and welcome Robin! Please come back when you can and let everyone know how he’s doing without food additives. You can make your own Food Mood Log to document everything he eats, drinks, and uses for medicine, with notes about his mood an behavior after each meal. Compare this to his preschool behavior charts or teacher’s notes to spot any patterns. For instance, does he do well on weekends and Mondays, but progressively get worse throughout the school week? Talk to his teacher about his lunch and snack foods to make sure they don’t give him anything with added colors or fake flavors. I wish you so much luck!

  16. L.A 2 says:

    I found this blog after I realized that food dye was the common factor in the foods I developed severe allergic reactions to. It sounds like most people are dye sensitive or allergic to a certain color, I wanted to find out if other people get anaphylaxis after eating it like me. I am 25 and have had unknown allergies since I was 24. I had hives (hundreds of hives) nearly every day and what seemed to be random facial swelling. It got worse and worse. I ate a cherry pull and peel and my face, lips and eyes swelled up, I ate an Edys whole fruit lime Popsicle and broke out into hives, my eyes and lips swelled, and I had to use an epipen when my throat started swelling and I felt severely anxious. Then, I had severe anaphylaxis when I ate a box of rainbow nerds last week (my lips swelled, I started coughing, then wheezing, and then I had to use an epipen in the car on my way to urgent care). Once there, I was afraid to take the prednisone Rx because I had several allergic reactions to it previously. I looked at the common ingredients and realize it was the dyes, so no more red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1, and probably green 3 too. I was hive free once I started avoiding them, but broke out again last night when I used Kiel’s lotion that had blue 1 in it.

    Anyone else have severe allergic reactions to more than one?

  17. L.A 2 says:

    One more thing – it is so annoying that medications have dye in them! I was on so many ant-asthma and antihistamine prescriptions with no results: all but one had dye in them. Even an allergy elimination diet eating basic foods from whole foods didn’t help because my pills had the dyes in them. I briefly stopped getting hives everyday for a couple of months last year when I stopped talking all of the antihistamines.

    Great blog! More people need to know that dyes can cause allergies. 4 allergy doctors and no one suspected dyes, I’ve been tested for every cancer and autoimmune disease because they refused to think that I was actually allergic to something I was exposed to everyday, they need better education too!

  18. Sherri says:

    After reading this information regarding the 12 signs and then doing a bit more research I am almost in tears….tears of joy! I have a 4 year old son who has been having major behavior problems in daycare and at home; just bouncing off the walls, inappropriate behavior, not listening, etc. I thought maybe he is early ADHD. After recently reading a post on FB about Kraft Mac and Cheese containing these dyes it turned on a lightbulb since I give my kids that for dinner at least once a week. Then a few days later a friend mentioned how taking her son off of all food dyes made a huge difference in his behavior. I thought I was a good mom…we buy organic milk and keep them away from trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, etc. but never thought these dyes could be related to his behavior. So I recently started reading ingredients in things he eats for breakfast and dinner (he’s in daycare full-time so that is going to be hard!). I was shocked how many things he eats daily have these dyes!!! So I’ve been careful for about a week and watching what he eats but his behavior is just not getting any better. So after everything I read today, I realized it’s not just the foods he has been eating!! I feel like it all started last year… due to allergies, his Dr. started him on Children’s Claritin….within a week we started noticing HORRIBLE behavior changes in him and the daycare called us to a meeting and put us on warning that he would be removed from the program. They asked if there were any sudden changes happening at home. Since Claritin was the only change in his life I did some research and read an ariticle that it had caused behavior changes in some children but it shouldn’t. We did take him off of it and noticed some improved behavior but not huge. About 2 months ago, his allergies were bad again so I started the Claritin again…. So after reading the baddatives list and reading the feingold program I went to check his Claritin label (he’s on the chewable grape flavored tablets) I saw it has red and blue dye in the inactive ingredients. I was shocked and then I checked his other vitamins and most of them had several of the badditives on there!! Wow, I can’t believe every morning he has his Claritin and about 4-6 vitamins (Vitamin C, Omega Fish Oil, probiotics) that all have either food dyes or other items on the list. So this morning I forgot to give him this concoction of pills that are supposed to make my little guy feel better and be healthy. And for breakfast he only had his pancakes (no butter, no syrup and none of the ingredients on the baddatives list) and water. He was just bouncing off the walls, not listening, hitting his sister, etc. I just went up to check his toothpaste and sure enough it has several of the items on the list including Blue No. 1. And he LOVES to eat his toothpaste. Though I’m so grateful I found out about all of this; I really hope and pray by eliminating all of this stuff going forward will truly make a difference! Thanks for listening and for your article!!! This may save my sanity!

    • Indie Mama says:

      Hi Sherry,

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I am hoping that you have found some answers here that will help your son. I recently posted up a Claritin question on my Facebook page this week: http://www.Facebook.com/DieFoodDye and lots of folks had suggestions. Also, your story is one reason why I started a petition this week, asking Big Pharma to ditch dyes from kid’s antibiotics, allergy and cold meds, vitamins, pain relievers, and toothpaste. Please sign it and share it with friends and family: http://www.DieFoodDye.com/Petition

      There is nothing more frustrating that shopping for medicine, as we usually cannot just simply make our own or reach for an alternative brand, like we can with macaroni and cheese. Stories like yours are very compelling and can help other parents think about what they are feeding their kids.

  19. Sherri says:

    oops, I actually have a question as well….his Claritin says it has D&C red No. 27 aluminum lake and FD&C blue No. 2 aluminum lake…though I see Blue No. 1 on the badditives list, I do not see red No. 27….does that mean the red No. 27 is considered “safe”?


    • Indie Mama says:

      Most “lake” colors like Red 27 are synthetically manufactured from petroleum just like the other FD&C dyes. I would personally steer clear of it.

  20. Karen says:

    I found this list after a search for food dye symptoms. After a rough night with my 6 year old, who seems to turn on a dime sometimes, I started googling. She has horrible long tantrums since she was 4 or so, but they are so random. I was convinced it was an outside source. Then today it finally dawned on me, after some normal weeks, she had a bad bad night. Her tantrum was well over an hour. Then another one right before bed. Everything was making her cry. But then she would be fine, somewhat. During her tantrums she would get up and sit back down on the couch about 20 times or so in a row. Then she started banging against the wall. What the heck is going on. Oh I know. 24 hours earlier (23 actually) I had taken my younger child to the ER for a fall. They got lollipops for being so good. Orange. Online the ingredients are yellow and red. We don’t normally have a lot of dyes, I have a younger child with multiple food allergies so that limits our processed food, but now I am convinced that is why my child acts so nuts. She has 1-7 and 11 on the list. Thank you for this post. I am going to be way more diligent now.

  21. John says:

    Here’s one I’ll bet no one has heard yet. I have a history of food allergies in my family, starting with my Dad (that I can confirm). When I consume foods like red velvet cake (red dye) my eyelids split and ooze. They burn like fire until they heal (usually 12-24 hours later). Other around the eyes symptoms, as well. Where the elderly normally get “crows feet”, my face will become irritated and cracked, and begin to darken, either reddish or purple, depending on the severity or dosage of the red dye.

    Other colors will do the same, but not as severe or quickly as red. Needless to say, I’m off Skittles! Many other wonderful allergies from foods (like falling asleep) but these are the primary reactions from colors in foods.

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  23. Lindsay says:

    Thank you for this! I battle with people not understanding my daughter’s reaction to food dyes which I discovered when she was 2 years old. She has such a sad time understanding it, but she is so good about it. Food dyes make her very aggressive and impulsive. Not a pretty picture. I think the biggest thing I struggle with is how to show her she is a great girl with an allergy and not a bad girl. She is entering kindergarten in the fall, and I know that this will not be easy for her. Thank you for the information on petroleum-based products. I knew what the dyes were made from, but I didn’t understand why people also suggested to abstain from bht and so on.

  24. Ann Fischer says:

    What a blessing to find a support network! We are fairly new to discovering my intense/way too smart 4 yearold’s dye sensitivity! It will help to know that others have gone through/are going through the same challenges at home and beyond. Thank you for all of the information!

  25. Ariel Harper says:

    My son has 5 of these. He will be 3 in September so some of it can be age. I have worked hard to keep red and greens out of his diet. We even noticed toothpaste sets him off! Its so hard to give him snacks without knowing what will trigger.

    Thankfully he only has physical symptoms and no hives etc. As a family we have shrimp and insect allergy’s so I know the signs….

    I hope he grows out of this.

    I used to think I was crazy and just imagining all of this. Im so happy I’m not the only one!

  26. Veronica Sexton says:

    I’m over 50 and had always known I had a sensitivity of sorts to red dyes. I can close my eyes and determine which M&M’s are red by taste! It hadn’t really been a problem until I was diagnosed with Lupus and a couple of similar illnesses, all involving arthritis pain. In the beginning it was bad because I suddenly seemed to be allergic to every food out there, especially corn-related products (which is another topic that is finally being examined: corn starch in generic drugs causing mild reactions that made many to believe incorrectly that the medicine just didn’t work right). Anyway, my sesitivity to red dyes and possibly a couple of yellow ones exploded into full-blown allergies. I get hives over my entire body which on the mild side feel like thousands of tiny pin pricks, or to itching so bad it feels like even my eyes itch! Fortunately I don’t have any breathing issues, but it can tske up to 3 days to flush the stuff out of my system. I was originally told to treat it with Benadryl – you know, the PINK pills with RED dye #27 in them! Talk about reaction! Fortunately they make dye-free gel caps which do the trick on the milder episodes. I have to add prednisone from my doc for the worse attacks. (For some reason all brands of the dye-free pills can’t be found currently, but I was able to find some that were red free). Fortunately also most of my food allergies have gone away as I got my Lupus under control. Except for corn starch and certain genuses of corn. I can eat popcorn but not sweet corn, canned or on the cob. I advise that those with senstivities also watch out for this pernicious product. Interestingly, most brand-name prescription drugs use potato starch or one of the aluminum or magnesium based fillers while generics tend to use the cheaper corn starch. It was difficult to track this down since many times the inserts for generic drugs didn’t list al of their ingredients. I complained to so many people in the medical profession that I wonder if word didn’t trickle up – almost every drug I use I can now find out all of the inactive ingredients – including those pesky dyes!!
    Read the labels and be mindful of the most common allergies not always mentioned – corn, eggs, wheat, seafood and dyes. I find that though sugar can exacerbate certain conditions, it is not considered a likely allergen. Of all the foods I became allergic to, pure cane sugar wasn’t one, even corn syrup barely affected me. (Did you know that some Caesar salad dressings contain anchovies? I found out the hard way.)
    Sorry for the long rant. 😉

    • Veronica Sexton says:

      P.S. I (and many others) are also allergic to artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. So sugar it is or nothing sweet at all. Ironically, sugar acts as a calming agent in both me and my children! And adding caffeine for my older son made me realize he had a mild case of ADHD since colas calmed him down immediately. (As an adult he eventually was drinking so much caffeine he realized he had developed the adult form and is now on meds for it. His only known allergies is the fabric agent used on new clothes to keep them looking good through handling. Wash before you wear!) Many products aimed at children as ‘better’ for them often contain ingredients that they are allergic too, and more dye since the dye needs to attach to something in the drink or appear washed out. We’re fighting s losing battle for the moment!

  27. Kathy Rhoden says:

    I am so happy to have found your website several weeks ago. My grandson is 8 and has lived with artificial dye and tree nut allergies since the age of 2. We have to be extremely careful because it is deadly. The preschool gave him Hawaiian punch at age 2 and had to call rescue within minutes. My daughter prepares everything he takes to school and for parties, etc. and makes sure he never gets left out. a year 1/2 ago, we started purchasing some awesome products for him as well as the whole family. They have whey protein powder for shakes, and bars for his snacks. Makes life so much easier. The whey is from grass fed New Zealand dairy cows that are given no hormones, no antibiotics and are rested 3 months out of the year so they product above USDA organic dairy for the whey. People that can’t tolerate lactose can most always drink them. They are gluten free, GMO free and have absolutely nothing artificial, no artificial sweetener, colors, preservatives or flavors). He usually has a shake for breakfast and one for after school snack. His behavior has improved drastically because the alkalinity is perfect for your body. He uses the greens and fruits they sell for his shakes too. Pure, clean nutrition. Thanks for all the research you do. I love your site.

  28. Sarah says:

    I have recently eliminated all artificial colors and flavors from my sons diet in an effort to control his ADHD naturally. In the past we have gone gluten free (no change) and in that process I was told that there could be a period where ge got worse before better becuase it would be like a drug addict detoxing. Do you know if that can be expected when removing colors? Sunday was the first day with no colors/flavors and I thought he was doing pretty good monday and tuesday morning but by last night it was like someone had fed him pure caffeine. This morning is the same as well. Its the H to the extreme. If not, I am wondering if it could be dairy. Any idea how long it takes for something like that to affect him and how long those effects last? He did not have dairy Sunday night, a little bit of milk for cereal monday morning and a slice of white american cheese on his sandwich at lunch then major cheese on his pizza that night. I am wondering if the pizza threw him over. The same breakfast tuesday but he had a tube of yogurt at lunch and cheeze on burritos last night. Sorry if I am rambling, I am just trying to brainstorm. ANy help is appreciated.

  29. Valynne M says:

    I was about to put my 10 year old on adhd meds. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t diet related first, I had such a hard time convincing everyone involved this was the best plan, but over the summer we did a dye free, processed food free diet. She is a different child. No more yelling, no more hysterics, no more irrational impulsive fits. She had some red dye on a cupcake at the end of summer and the reaction was so swift and intense it left no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was the problem. She’s back at school now and her teachers have already noticed a huge difference. I’m crossing my fingers that I found the answer.

  30. Dave says:

    We noticed a difference in our daughter in less than 48 hours. It was an amazing transformation. She really felt better and knew why. She started reading labels herself and could tell within a few hours if she missed one. Let’s join Europe and looking out for our kids. They don’t use food dye anymore.

  31. Shelly S. says:

    I spent 1 1/2 years in a lot of pain. I thought I had a sinus infection. I kept going to the ear nose and throat doctor since the pain was in my nasal cavity and pushing into my teeth (feeling the same as a sinus infection I had experienced many years previous). After 3 antibiotics the doctor finally said that he really can’t see that I have a sinus infection and maybe it is my thyroid, after getting that tested and coming back normal all the while not sleeping, I have 4 children, and i also began suffering with severe anxiety. Finally I went to a chiropractor who told me that I have an allergy to something but he would not be able to help me with what I was allergic to. I thought maybe it was sugar and then that wasn’t making sense, maybe fabric softener, that didn’t make sense. The chiropractor also gave me some vitamins (I don’t know what they were) that would help with allergic reactions for about 1 year. We were thinking maybe it could be something in the air. After 1 year my reactions started coming back and I knew I could not go through what I had been through and I wanted to know what was causing the reaction. One day I was eating Doritos and I could tell that they were bothering me- I knew it was something in there. With the help of my sister who had started going to school for holistic medicine we narrowed it down. I will know by night time if I have eaten anything with dye in it. I also think there is something in tootsie rolls and milk duds that bother me. That is what I was trying to find on your site was anything about artificial flavorings. I know these dyes are not good for us and hopefully my experience will help any one who has suffered from reactions to them like I have.

  32. Ashley says:

    I have experienced a few of those. About three years ago, I was having horribly painful headaches usually after I ate. I realized that after I would chew my favorite gum (5 gum) a very strong one would come on. Then I began noticing it with other candy as well, so I eventually figured out what all of my “trigger foods” had in common. So I tried cutting all dyes out and my life has improved dramatically. I find myself able to sleep better, not as hyper, I think more clearly, I do better in school, my mood has even improved!
    I have been cutting out more and more artifical foods ever since. I also found Unreal Candy, all of their treats are dyefree and all natural!

  33. kristi minter says:

    My son had 8 of the 12 listed…so glad a friend of a friend introduced us to the Feingold program! It has totally changed our lives!!!

  34. Amanda says:

    My 5 year old was diagnosed with OCD this summer and therapy and meds haven’t helped. I read this list and he has all but one of these symptoms. I will be giving this a trial starting this weekend. Here’s hoping.

  35. elyse says:

    My daughter has Celiac and I think she also has food dye allergies or sensitivities. She gets severe stomach aches and headaches after drinking dark sodas and eating candy. Usually misses school because she’s in bed. We’re going back to her GI specialist soon with her food diary.

    • Indie Mama says:

      I have heard of others with Celiac who are sensitive to dyes. I am sure dyes cause inflammation and exacerbate several other health problems. How did it go with the GI specialist?

  36. I’m so glad I found this post I’m also have food dye allergy especially to Red 40 I get hives and nausea from it so for 10 years I avoid any food that said Red 40 so I hope one day they’ll do something about it and get rid of all food dye which is dangerous to our heath also it’s kinda hard to find anything that doesn’t have it.

  37. Wendy K says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post! Our son was rushed to the ER many times with what we would call “croup”. They would rush us back as his belly would fully retract because he couldn’t breathe. He even had an exploratory surgery when he was 3 yrs old to make sure his anatomy was correct. We took him off all dairy but he still had the problem. He had his tonsils and adenoids taken out and they were growing all the way up into his nasal cavity! We then took him off all food dyes in Oct last year. He has only had one episode of breathing problems and that was Christmas morning. He was eating whatever Christmas Eve so it all makes sense. He is now 4 and throws away any candy that is given to him and even asks me if he is unsure of a food that he wants to eat! PTL we discovered this food dye issue and I hope this info helps other children. It’s actually easy to avoid the dyes and MUCH healthier for your child, and yourself 🙂

  38. Andi cat says:

    I discovered (after doing an elimination diet for dairy and other allergens) at 33 that I’m highly sensitive to food color. It started during hot summer days when I would have otter pops. I put it together quickly due to eliminating food I was allergic to, so the reaction became apparent to me in one or two days. I would get an overwhelming sense of anxiety and even, well embarrassment is the only way I could describe it. Tho I’m sitting alone on my couch reading or watching tv and the butterflies in my stomach felt like I was on stage in front of 1000 people. It was so odd. I also noticed I would start obsessing over like one thought. This is completely opposite of my personality. As a calm mellow rarely anxious person who meditates and is happy and positive, I was lucky this feeling was so out of character for me. So I was able to pinpoint it to the Popsicles which the only thing they could possible have that I didn’t know I wasn’t/was allergic to was the coloring.

    I never believed that red could cause kids to be hyperactive but as an adut I’ve experienced the restless butterflies myself. Imagine how a child would react to this excess anxious energy. Hyperactivity and misbehavior seem obvious.

    It’s been about a year and a half since then. I’m extremely allergic to dairy so much so that I actually cannot even tolerate the small amount of lactose used as a filler in medications. I have chronic muscle fatigue and joint pains etc. I recently added Ibprophen but they all have lactose so I found one that was gel but it’s colored blue-green. I’ve been taking it for month or two and progressively my pains been getting worse. I am just figuring out this week that over time this color has been making my malaise and pain worse, so only a day or two and I am noticing the decrease, even without the added pain relief benefits.

    Medication is a huge source of allergens and colors as well. Every children’s medicine not not has colors but flavours. These substances aren’t appropriately tested and due to the wide range of symptoms only affecting some children and not everyone make it difficult to get conclusive data. When testing on the general public you just don’t see the huge affect it has on the individuals who are sensitive to it.

    I’m glad I made these discoveries. I’m a true believer, so I hope others, parents, adults and children are able to notice these symptoms for themselves.

  39. Rae says:

    I just found this article and had to comment. I was 2 years old when my parents determined I was dye-sensitive. The story is I ate cheese puffs then didn’t sleep for 3 days. I would also develop hives all over my body. Luckily, I have a parent who is also dye-sensitive (he almost died as a toddler from a reaction to tang in the late 60s) so my parents immediately knew what the problem was. Red 40 is my biggest enemy, followed by Yellow 5/6. They eliminated it from my diet and all was well. As an older child (6-11) I would feel left out when I couldn’t eat something because of my allergy so often would consume it anyway. I can remember the violent hysterical tantrums and screaming matches I would get into with anyone around me that I would have as a result. The reactive behavior was compulsive, I can remember the thoughts in my head during them as “why am I doing this? I don’t want to be doing this” but I couldn’t stop myself. My parents had a lot of patience and knew it was a dye reaction, so they would put me in my bedroom, let me scream it out until I fell asleep, and then when I awoke a few hours later I would be perfectly fine. This behavior stopped around puberty, maybe I learned to control it better, but back then I was under the assumption that I had out-grown my food-dye allergy. I would only have reactions once in a great while when I consumed a large amount of dye, or if I hadn’t really eaten anything else all day. I would either have a rage I couldn’t explain (but could cope better by feeling it coming on and removing myself from other people) or sometimes I could notice my skin becoming itchy.
    I am now 26 years old, and am realizing that dye sill affects me very much. I kept becoming flu-like ill with no explanation. I started looking into digestive disorders and gluten allergies because I can go months without having solid bowel movements. Then a month ago I ate some Twizzlers because they looked really good when I stopped to get gas A few hours later I had stomach cramps followed by vomiting, and it dawned on me, Red 40. I eliminated it from my diet that night. I could feel a difference within 2 days. My skin stopped being itchy and blotchy, the last bit of acne I can never get rid of cleared up, I could focus better, I wasn’t getting restless and could spend more hours studying, I didn’t feel irritable towards people, I didn’t feel tired all the time, my bowel movements were normal, and I lost 8 lbs in 3 days (water retention from the allergic reaction, I’m a petite person, 8lbs is over 5% of my body weight.) So right now I am adjusting back to my dye-free childhood diet. I can think I am careful then feel my skin swell/itch, or I have to run to the bathroom, or I wake up and find I gained 5-10 pounds overnight, then I look at a label I thought was safe and sure enough, Red 40. It is absolutely amazing to me how much this affects me. Some reactions are instantaneous, others take a few hours, but over the past few weeks as soon I start feeling poorly, I can find a label with dye that I overlooked.
    Going with the milk theory, I was breastfed until 2 and was never given formula. I was rarely if ever given dairy milk, and have known I was lactose intolerant since I was at last 5. My dye-sensitive dad was VERY allergic to dairy as a newborn and had to be given soy formula.

  40. AutismHell says:

    My adult autistic son just slapped, punched and kicked his dad & hit his service dog, because he didn’t get his way about something he wanted…it was only 4:45 am. He drank a large amount of fruit punch soda last night. I noticed he gets angrier quicker when drinking it. He’s seriously off the hook, agitated, more stimmy than usual, more verbal than usual (not in a good way, but a real annoying hyper active way-constant banter) and total lack of self control. He would typically posture like he would hit you when he’s really upset, but after drinking that red devil water, he’s out of control and acts upon it!!! It should be banned and I should slap myself for buying that poison for him. I’m convinced now it’s the red dye…not the current full moon! God help us.

  41. Karrie Reesman says:

    My 9 year old has suffered with about 8/12 symptoms listed since she started preschool. I also suspected ADD but her teachers and doctors say NO, she doesn’t fit the criteria. The issues are mainly at school but do effect her during extra curricular activities as well. 3 months ago a friend who is a nutritionist told us she should not be eating gluten as she was born with hypothyroidism and takes Synthroid daily to support her thyroid function. We have seen great results eliminating gluten but there are still some problems with her behavior and I’m not sure if these are due to bad habits becoming learned behavior or is she reacting to yet another sensitivity such as food dyes and chemical preservatives? After reading thru all the posts I’m am convinced that I need to eliminate food dyes and preservatives from her diet as well. I know there is a sweet girl in there somewhere and it breaks my heart to have her teachers/instructors judge her disruptive behavior as if she’s in control of it. She cries to me that she doesn’t know why she acts out and doesn’t want to, but cannot help it or control it. it’s truly heart wrenching to see another adult glance your child’s way then look away dismissing them due to their poor behaviors. I see her overlooked for opportunities or advancements in her activities and I know the instructor is thinking, no, not her, she’s difficult. Thank you for opening my eyes to this! Hopefully the dietary change will be the answer we’ve been looking for!

  42. Sara W says:

    Thank you for this article! The last few months with my four year old have been disturbing, unsettling, perplexing and just plain exhausting and stressful to me as a parent. A friend of the family who had five kids suggested red dye. I couldn’t believe the varying symptoms that the sensitivity entailed! The crazy thing is that I alerted the Pediatrician to her hive breakouts after a couple of foods (both happened to be red) earlier in the year, but she said those were too isolated to raise any concerns? We noticed that the hives were initially present, but as the weeks went by those seemed to be replaced by the behavioral symptoms that began to mount. Perhaps this could be referred to as a form of red dye ataxia (I’ve read about gluten ataxia). She was showing the following symptoms you shared:
    1. Hyperactivity:
    2. Lack of attention:
    3. Sleep problems:
    4. Mood swings:
    5. Violence/Aggression:
    6. Lack of impulse control: Increase in risky behaviors, excessive talking at inappropriate times, loud talking, disruptive, interrupts people a lot, hard to transition from one activity to another, does not adjust behavior in response to discipline.
    (One of her most troublesome symptoms going back to toddler years has been excessive desire to eat shortly after adequate food was consumed. The desire to eat and the complaint of “still being hungry” has been a bizarre phenomenon to me).
    9. Skin ailments: hives.
    10. Breathing problems: requires an inhaler due to dye-induced asthma – coughing spells after red dye consumption and needing an inhaler.
    11. Compulsiveness:
    12. Not consistent:
    13. – started out as dairy-allergic baby: vomited after first ingestion of cheese. Currently gets immediate stomach upset from cow’s milk.
    14. My daughter gets the inconsolable “Screaming Weepies” for several hours after. Wow!! It’s incredible to see this behavior described and witnessed by another. We have called it the “fake cry.”

    We are on day 5 and she is drastically different. I went from disciplining her all day long for bad behaviors to only a few times as expected of a normal child. It’s as if she was morphing into a monster inside her little body and had no control or ability to make it stop. She would growl, make sour faces, have a haughty “ugh” reaction to so many things. I’m in awe of the calmness and sweetness that has returned. The numerous battles have ceased and I am a much happier and peaceful parent. Thanks again!!

  43. jen says:

    After reading this, I’m going to try eliminating the dyes because it describes my son to a T. I kind of want to cry now.

  44. Sue says:

    I was just looking up reactions to food for me and omg this makes a lot of sense. I am going to try to eliminate and see what happens. Ty

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