Could you be allergic to sesame? If so, you are part of a growing number of people who have a reaction to products made from sesame seeds and sesame seed oil. And since sesame is contained in many foods and other products, this ingredient can be very difficult to avoid.

An Increasing Problem

Over the past decade, incidents of sesame allergy seem to have become more common among people of all ages, according to doctors. In fact, some experts say that an allergy to sesame has become almost as widespread a problem as food allergies to milk, eggs and tree nuts.

Possible Reasons for the Increases

Researchers look to two possible explanations that can explain the recent rise in the number of cases. Some experts believe that it may be attributed to an increase in the availability of ethnic foods in the United States that are made from sesame, such as hummus and falafel. It is not only ethnic treats that contain sesame, either. Sesame bagels are common, and even McDonald's serves sesame seed buns. In addition, some cosmetics and pharmaceutical products also are made from sesame. Such extensive availability of this ingredient is allowing more Americans to become exposed to sesame and to experience allergic reactions.[i]

The second possible explanation, though, is that the number of people with a sesame allergy may not have changed, but rather awareness about this condition has grown and therefore, more people are recognizing the problem today.[ii]

Sesame Allergy Symptoms

In either case, the symptoms of a sesame allergy are the same as those you might experience with other types of food allergies. These can range from mild skin conditions, including hives, eczema and itching to more severe problems, such as nausea, other stomach ailments, breathing problems and the risk of anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

The Risk that Exists

If you have a sesame allergy, the best thing you can do is to steer clear of anything that contains sesame seeds and sesame seed oil. However, this can be easier said than done, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't include sesame on its list of dangerous allergens and therefore, does not requires manufacturers to include a warning to people with a sesame allergy.

Further complicating this problem is the fact that the makeup of sesame is similar to tree nuts and peanuts, and therefore can pose a potential danger to some people with severe nut allergies. One study even found that children who have a reaction to tree nuts are almost three times more likely than their counterparts to have a similar reaction to sesame seeds.[iii] [iv]

But while it is possible to test for many other food allergies, many sesame allergies cannot be confirmed with a simple test. Therefore, if you need to know for sure whether you (or your child) could have a serious sesame allergy, you may have to actually try eating some sesame while under the strict supervision of your doctor and see what type of reaction occurs.




[iii] An abstract of this study, which was conducted by Children's Hospital in Boston, is included in a document you can access at