Allergy to sesame seeds is one of the lesser talked about allergies, but my attention has been drawn to it a little more recently. It is true that use of sesame seeds and sesame seed products is much more common these days, the oil is becoming adopted as a regular oil for salad dressings and stir fry as it has such a lovely flavour. I really like it and use it myself, put the seeds on the top of any bread I’m making, or sprinkle them into salads as I’m sure some of you do too? McDonald’s certainly do. And other sesame products like Tahini, Halva and hummus are regular foods for us now. The thing is that Sesame Oil is one of the few vegetable oils that is used unrefined and so the seed protein is intact, the consequence of this is that just 3ml of sesame oil is enough to induce an allergic reaction.
So here we have the problem – used more reacted to more. The problem is not just with foods but also with pharmaceuticals, medical products and cosmetics were sesame oils and byproducts are being used more than ever too.
Children are most affected by sesame allergy
It is infants and young children who seem to be most affected and I have read somewhere that it is not uncommon for those with peanut allergy to also have a reaction to sesame. (4 out of 55 children who were allergic to peanuts showed signs of a reaction to sesame in a clinical trail of 1996). As so little is mentioned about Sesame allergy I thought I would air the dangers.
The Dept of Health has issued advice aimed at reducing the development of peanut allergy.(Committee on Toxicity of Chemical in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment report on peanut allergy. 1998)
It advises that atopic* infants should not be exposed to peanuts and peanut products until they are least three. It would seem sensible to advise that these infants should also avoid sesame products, particularly if the child has atopic dermatitis or other atopic history. If you suspect any hint of a sesame allergy and your child has dermatitis check all emollients and creams to make sure sesame is not in the ingredients or the source of oil.
The Skin prick test does not seem to be very reliable for detecting sesame seed allergy, so diagnosis through specialist allergy clinics would be best.
For more information see “Raising Awareness of Sesame Allergy” which was one of the first documents to alert me to this important issue”
(* atopic – genetically determined state of hypersensitivety to environmental allergens)