What You Need to Know About Sesame Allergy

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Have you ever had sushi and ended up with hives on your body? Well, if you did, the sesame seeds in that sushi could be the reason that triggered such a reaction in your body. Sesame seeds and oil are stapled ingredients in Asian cuisine. While most baked goods such as buns or bread have sesame, they also have a broad spectrum of use in Asian foods. But not all people are tolerant of sesame, and some might have mild to a severe allergic reaction to it – it can even lead to fatality. As the cases of sesame allergy grew worldwide, so did the concern over the use of sesame. One in every hundred people can be allergic to sesame seeds. Read on to find out more about sesame allergy and how you can avoid it.

What Is Sesame Allergy?

Sesame allergy might not be as popular as peanut allergy or lactose intolerance, but it is the ninth common cause of food allergy in the USA. Allergies result from our autoimmune reflex; most of them are caused by the IgE reaction, which is intense and immediate. Other immune reactions can also trigger allergy, but they develop after coming into contact with any allergic source. The protein inside the sesame seeds can bind with your IgE antibody, causing your immune system to trigger some defensive reaction.

The protein named oleosin is regarded as the key factor that creates an IgE reaction. However, sesame seeds have many other proteins whose natures are yet to discover.  If you don’t want to use sesame oils in your recipe for fear of an allergic reaction, you can use sesame oil substitute for your cooking.

What Are the Symptoms?

Allergic reactions to sesame can vary from person to person. Some people might develop mild hives, while others might end up with anaphylaxis, resulting in death. However, in most cases, people have a mild reaction to sesame allergy. Symptoms can appear right after they consume the food or might take an hour or so to develop. Common symptoms of sesame allergy are-

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Coughing
  • Lower pulse rate
  • Itchiness in your mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Urticaria or Hives
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flushing in your face

People who develop anaphylaxis can have these symptoms-

  • Tongue swelling
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Dizziness and Fainting
  • Breathing difficulties

How Do You Know If You Have A Sesame Allergy?

Foods are a combination of many ingredients; often, it is hard to pinpoint the exact element that causes the allergy. For example, you might be allergic to shellfish, which you are not aware of. But the food you ate both had shellfish and sesame seeds in it; how do you know what caused you the allergic reaction- the shellfish or the sesame seeds?

To diagnose sesame allergy, you might have to go through a blood IgE test, skin prick test, or an oral sesame seed challenge test. Make sure you don’t take any antihistamines before the test. That’s because if you conduct an IgE test after you consume antihistamine, the result might not come out as false negatives to food sensitivities. If you have a repeating history of developing reactions after consuming this particular food, you can consider yourself allergic to it.

What Foods Can Trigger Sesame Allergy?

Although sesame has some health benefits, foods that contain sesame seeds or sesame oil can trigger sesame allergy in people who are sensitive to it. For example, hummus, tahini, falafel, tempeh, salads, muesli, granola bar, nuts and seeds bar, any type of baked goods and bread can have sesame on them. Regular foods like soup, sushi, stew, stir fry, flavored rice, marinades, dressing, sauces, dips, noodles, sausage, tortilla, pita, or chips can contain sesame.

Whenever you are dining out in restaurants, remember to check the ingredients of the items you are going to order, especially if it’s Asian, Turkish, or middle eastern cuisine. Sesame can be alternatively named Benne Seed, Gingelly, Sesamol, or Sim Sim; keep an eye out for these names. Moreover, keep in mind that people with sesame allergy can also be allergic to other seeds, as they contain a similar allergen as sesame.

Can Non-Food Items Cause You A Sesame Allergy?

Sesame is not only consumed in foods; it is also used in different cosmetics and medications. You can again come in contact with sesame from various pet food items or dietary supplements. Whenever you are buying such products, make sure you thoroughly go through the list of ingredients. It is mandatory for the manufactures to mention sesame in their product label if they contain sesame.

What to Do If You Have a Sesame Allergy?

It is no brainer that you should avoid foods that trigger any of your allergies and sensitivities. If you have mild symptoms, you can treat them with some over-the-counter medication such as antihistamines. If you have any other pre-existing medical condition, make sure you consult with a doctor before taking any over the counter medicine.

However, if you find yourself or others developing severe reactions or even anaphylactic symptoms, you should immediately seek medical attention. If you have an Epinephrine shot, you should use that EpiPen right away. It can prevent the symptoms of anaphylaxis and might even save your life.

If You Have a Sesame Allergy, Make Sure You Follow These

  • Check the ingredients that you want to cook. Remove items that contain sesame from your kitchen.
  • Even if sesame oil is refined, it can contain the allergen. Be vigilant when you are traveling. Whenever you are eating out, make a point to ask what oil was used to prepare the food. In many cultures, using sesame oil in cooking is as normal as adding salt to it; they might not even think of mentioning that they have used sesame oil.
  • Know what symptoms are associated with sesame allergy for your case. Have an emergency plan and remain calm if things get out of hand.

The Bottom Line

Sesame allergy is a lifelong condition that cannot be treated. It can develop in people of all ages. But it is not difficult to avoid foods that set off your allergic reaction. Be mindful of what you are eating or using as medication or cosmetics.  Application of allergic cosmetics might not seem as severe as consuming allergic foods, but they still can have an extreme reaction. However, with proper caution, you can learn to live with sesame allergy.

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