Last updated: December 2022
This research was originally done by the creator of the blog called Hidden Corn. This blog is no longer maintained as the author was no longer keeping up on the newest developments. I wanted it to remain available for people, so I took the data over and am soliciting help from a trusted friend to keep it up to date. We are making changes and additions as we note missing or outdated information. Please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see anything that is incorrect, or any broken links.
I know it is difficult to prioritize something that has not happened yet when you’re trying to find safe food to eat, but PLEASE do your research and try to assemble a care plan BEFORE you have an emergency. Figuring this stuff out when you’re actually in the ER is really difficult and it’s easy to miss things.
Hospital And Medical Safety with a Corn Allergy
Emergency Room Safety with a Corn Allergy
Spreadsheet With Brief Research On Specific Drugs for Surgery
ADHESIVES: Corn starch is frequently used in adhesives. Many 3m brand medical dressings seem to work best for both latex and corn allergy people, but this is likely to come down to individual sensitivity.
ANTIBIOTICS: Corn is almost always the growth medium. There isn’t any avoiding this. If you need antibiotics, you’ll have to simply medicate to avoid a severe reaction. Typical pre-medication would be an H1 antihistamine such as benadryl, an H2 antihistamine such as zantac or pepcid, and perhaps a prophylactic steroid. (Make sure you have corn free versions of all these!) When taking any medication, you need to determine what the inactive ingredients are and from what they’re derived to choose something that is as corn-free as possible. If you have time, it may be best to have your medications compounded to be as corn free as possible. Another option may be to use the intravenous version and that has a corn free ingredients list. Cross reference with the corn derivatives list Keep in mind that even if the ingredients “look safe” you may still react to consider asking to trial a small amount of the medication before doing a full dose.
BODY BAGS: Can be made from corn. (source: Corn-Free Lifestyle)
BLOOD BAGS/BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS: Contain corn-based anticoagulants, specifically dextrose and citric acid. (2) If you need a blood transfusion, you need to medicate with a steroid, an h1 antihistamine such as benadryl, and an h2 anithistamine such as zantac or pepcid. More info on premedication in my Hospital Safety post.
BLOOD PRESSURE CUFFS: Some folks report skin reactions due to the sanitizers used on these between patients. Bring the sleeve of an old t-shirt to put between you and the cuff if you have the presence of mind or have them take your BP over your shirt if you have sleeves on.
CT SCAN CONTRAST: The contrast solution, if flavored, will probably contain corn derivatives. Look for a contrast with the least amount of ingredients possible (will probably be unflavored), to be mixed in plain water. Ingredients should also be checked for IV contrasts. Note: reactions to CT contrast are common even in people without allergies, so radiologists may be more likely to understand concerns about reactions and have a protocol should you react.
DENTAL VISITS: Pretty much all of the products used at a dental visit can be corny, from the medications and products themselves to the paper and gloves used for sanitation. Dental health is very important though, and many many corn allergics have managed safe dental care. More on corn free dental care: Corn Allergy Safety at the Dentist.
FLUIDOTHERAPY / HAND THERAPY: The cellulose used in Fluidotherapy machines used by some hand therapists is made from ground corn cobs.
HAND SANITIZER: Almost all hand sanitizer contains ethanol from corn, and even not very sensitive people will have airborne reactions to corn-derived ethanol. Hand sanitizers also frequently contain scents which can be a concern for corn or chemical sensitivity. They will also contain inactive ingredients that are often from corn such as glycerin that may cause a contact reaction if someone touches you after using it. If staff insists on using hand sanitizer near you ask them to wear (powder free) gloves afterwards.
HAND SOAP: Almost all liquid hand soaps contain glycerin which may be from corn as well as citric acid and other ingredients commonly derived from corn. If you are skin-reactive, you may have a contact reaction to someone touching you who has used these soaps, or if you are highly airborne reactive you may have issues breathing near someone who has used them. Here is one example ingredients list from an antimicrobial soap used in surgical settings.
GLOVES: Powdered surgical and exam gloves are often powdered with corn starch. Effective Jan 19, 2017 the US FDA has banned the sale and use of powdered surgical and exam gloves, so that’s good news for us corn allergy sufferers. It make take some time for full compliance, and non-medical settings may still make use of them.
INTRAVENOUS SOLUTIONS: Lactated Ringers’ solution contains sodium lactate, which is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid isn’t *always* fermented on corn sugar but several of the major distributors of the product do use corn sugar. Given the volume of production of sodium lactate for medical purposes I doubt there’d be a way to know for sure which supplier the lactic acid came from. Additionally dextrose/glucose is often added to intravenous solutions and injectables. Ask for a saline IV fluid. If you are inpatient, consider making signs to hang on the IV stand stating no lactated ringers and no dextrose as nurses will not always check your charts at shift change or will mix you up with other patients. Realize that the nurses may still not read the IV stand and remind them. Train an advocate such as a family member or close friend before you need one to help remind them!
Get a copy of the inactive ingredients and compare any IV or oral med you take to the corn derivative list.
INTRAVENOUS IMMUNOGLOBULIN (IVIG):
- Gammagard S/D [low IgA]
- Gammagard Liquid
- Octagam and Privigen
- Gammagard liquid: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=9d42adca-0dd7-4df7-864d-5a7feee52130
- Carimune: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=610b905a-50d3-48f0-919a-69cc99aab5a8
- Flebogamma: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=2cf22c72-64ac-45be-b7c6-d20340730096
- Gammaked: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=8c004331-7a91-8046-7510-9b9b7d33ced7
- Gamunex (some versions at least): https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=ade6b84a-e95b-0a49-3296-f56208fdf35b
- Privigen: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=7e5649da-75be-4a42-8eeb-4aeba562c401
- glycine which is synthesized either by amination of chloroacetic acid with ammonia or reaction of an aldehyde with ammonium chloride in the presence of potassium cyanide (Strecker synthesis). Note that chloroacetic acid *is* made with acetic acid which will be from corn. This would be something that some people might tolerate since it is very processed away from the original source, and others might not. It may also be possible that there are acetic acid sources which are not from corn depending on the supplier.
- proline which is synthesized from diethyl malonate and acrylonitrile
- sucrose which is a sugar from beets or cane.
NON-MEDICINAL INGREDIENTS aka Preservatives and Excipients: Go HERE to read an excellent article about corn derivatives used in non-medicinal ingredients. The article was in the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia’s May/June 2007 newsletter; it may be an older newsletter, but the information is still extremely applicable!
MEDICATIONS: Inactive ingredients of pills, injections, and topical products may contain corn. Get package inserts and compare the active and inactive ingredients with the corn derivative list. Finding the Inactive Ingredients of Medications. In many cases you may need to have a medication custom made to be corn free. This is called “compounding.” Getting Medications Compounded. Finding a Compounding Pharmacy.
PLASMA: Plasma is diluted with 1 part citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD) anticoagulant to 4 parts plasma on collection. The CPD is corny due to the citrate (from citric acid) and the dextrose (corn sugar).
PLASTER CASTS: Plaster casts are made from muslin that have dextrose (corn sugar) and “starch” (likely corn starch) added. Opt for fiberglass or air casts instead.
PREFILLED SALINE FLUSHES for IV lines and catheters contain a preservative. Staff needs to get a vial of plain saline and draw it into a syringe and use that to flush your line.
SANITIZERS: I don’t have a source on why anti-microbial floor and surface cleaners in hospitals seem to be a concern for people who are airborne reactive to corn, but reports from the corn allergy community, and my personal experience show that they are. Some contain ethanol from corn, some don’t. It may be that corn allergics are often also chemically sensitive. All I know is that even when I can’t smell any cleaners in hospitals, I react the entire time I’m inside on just from breathing the air, and many other airborne-reactive corn allergics experience the same. I wear a carbon filter mask, and if in-patient, ask for them to only mop the floor in my room with water. I also bring in a HEPA filter for my room and run that and put a sign on the door to keep the door closed at all times, even if just coming in for a second.
SUTURES: Absorbable sutures may be made from PLA or polylactic acid, which is frequently made from corn. I am told some non-dissolvable sutures may be dusted with corn starch, although I have no source to prove this. I have also heard reports of those with corn allergies reacting to sutures that should be corn-free, so exercise caution.
SYNTHETIC INGREDIENTS: If you are attempting to determine the source of an ingredient and are told it’s “synthetic,” don’t let that be the end of the line in your questioning or you will be taking a risk that your medication might contain a corny ingredient. See if you can find out which raw ingredients are used in the chemical process that creates the synthetic ingredient.
TUBING FOR OXYGEN MASKS: You may react, I don’t know if this is corn starch dusting or what. Ask to have them wiped or rinsed with water.
TONGUE DEPRESSORS: Can be made from corn. (source: Corn-Free Lifestyle)
11 thoughts on “Where’s the Corn in Medical Supplies and Equipment?”
Thank you for all this info. This past week I needed occupational therapy for a hand injury. Turns out the main machine they use in the room is full of ground up corn they have you place your hand in for a kind of treatment. Corn dust was all over everything. Had no idea I’d be walking into that! Made me sick for two days from the pollen exposure.
Woah! So I actually just went to OT/hand therapy for my first time a few months ago. But I was getting it for hypermobility so we were just discussing techniques for doing things and fitting for ring splints, and we never got in the same room as any of the machines that you dipped your hands into. I lucked out as I am airborne anaphylactic to corn!
But yes, apparently fluidotherapy machines contain cellulose from corn cobs! https://www.rehabmart.com/category/fluidotherapy.htm
Thank you for the heads up, adding this immediately!
I’m going to be having a PET scan. I believe the contrast agentvtgry have to use has glucose. Somewhere here you said no glucose. Do you know of a safe PET contrast agent? (Or those that are not safe?)
Correct, glucose is usually a corn derivative. I don’t specifically know a safe PET scan contrast and instead need to refer you to some important resources so that you have the info to navigate all of the many decisions you will need to make in treating your cancer.
1) corn derivative list: http://corn-freefoods.blogspot.com/2017/11/corn-allergen-list-corn-derivatives.html?m=1
2) Hospital and medical safety: https://cornallergygirl.com/2017/02/22/hospital-and-medical-safety-with-a-corn-allergy/
3) Facebook support group. It’s not my group but it saved my life when I was new at this. We have posts from a couple people navigating cancer treatment with corn allergy in the past and have a fair number of people who are knowledgeable about navigating medical care with corn allergy. https://www.facebook.com/groups/cornallergy/
Essentially, you’re going to end up in a lot of situations where you have to pick the “least bad” option and just use medication to treat reactions. I had to do this for a blood transfusion since the anti coagulants contain corn derivatives. You’re also going to have to quickly learn a lot about how to guess where corn may be and that kind of sucks because it’s a steep learning curve. Please get some support from the group to help you with that.
I noticed that the juice they give pregnant women for one-hour glucose test is not listed. It is a dextrose solution, at least at Memorial Hospital South Bend. I had a reaction to this during my first pregnancy. You can ask to monitor your blood sugar at home for a week instead, which is what my provider suggested for my second pregnancy.