Did your child recently get diagnosed with a sesame allergy? If so, I’m sure you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused, and maybe even lost as to where to start with research. You might be wondering what foods are off-limits. What do reactions look like? How is my life going to change now?
If that sounds like you, then please keep reading. Below I’m sharing Everything You Need To Know About Sesame Allergy. I’ll walk you through what it is, symptoms and reactions, and even tips for managing allergies right in your own home.
What Is A Sesame Allergy?
Sesame allergy is a type of food allergy that occurs when your immune system mistakenly triggers a defensive response to sesame, leading to reaction symptoms that can be mild or very severe. Sometimes people outgrow some food allergies over time, but sesame allergies are lifelong in many people. As of January 1, 2023, Sesame became the ninth major allergen in the U.S. that is required to be labeled clearly on packaged foods.
Be Careful During the Sesame Labeling Transition Period! Even though the requirement that sesame has to be listed on the label as an allergen is in effect as of January 1, 2023, you still may find food products that don’t list sesame as an allergen on the label. If you are unsure whether a product could contain sesame, call the manufacturer to ask about their ingredients and manufacturing practices.
What is Sesame?
Sesame seed is the seed of the sesame plant (Sesamum indicium). Sesame seeds are tiny, oil-rich seeds that grow in pods.
What Happens With A Sesame Allergy?
With a sesame allergy, if someone who’s allergic ingests or is exposed to sesame or a product containing sesame, their immune system overreacts to the proteins found in it. This overreaction causes the immune system to release certain chemicals, like histamines, which in turn, causes an allergic reaction,
Sesame Allergy Symptoms and Reactions
Allergic reactions can vary from mild to severe depending on the person, and someone who previously had a mild reaction can have a more severe one in the future.
Mild symptoms include:
- Skin rash
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or area around the mouth
- Abdominal pain
More severe symptoms include:
- Pale or bluish tint of the skin
- Throat constriction
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Weak, rapid pulse
These more severe symptoms may be signs of anaphylaxis- a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. If you notice someone with any of these signs, they should be dealt with immediately by the use of an EpiPen. To know more about this severe allergic reaction, check out my post about What Is Anaphylaxis and How Is Treated.
Sesame allergy Treatment
Strict avoidance of sesame is recommended to prevent a reaction. Unfortunately, there is no treatment right now that cures food allergies. Researchers are now studying ways to go beyond today’s methods of treating allergies. Hopefully, we may soon have better and new ways to block the body’s allergic response.
Once your doctor has confirmed a sesame allergy, you will most likely get a prescription for self-injectable epinephrine in case of a severe reaction happens and an antihistamine for mild reactions.
Managing Sesame Allergy
As with any food-related allergy, the most effective way to avoid a reaction at home is to keep sesame or sesame-containing products out of the house. You can read labels, not bring home take-out food, and make sure anyone who may bring you food is aware of allergies.
If keeping sesame out of the home completely isn’t possible, here are a few tips for still keeping an allergy-friendly home:
- Color code containers- green with safe food, red with bad
- Cook with separate kitchen tools to prevent cross-contamination
- Use specific dishes and cups for your child with allergies
- Have a list of emergency contacts in an obvious location, like the fridge, for easy access
You should also check out my post about Keeping An Allergy Friendly Kitchen for even more ideas! Also, be super careful when eating out, always read labels, and keep your emergency kit close.
Common Foods That Contain Sesame
Sesame is now one of the nine major allergens in the U.S. that must be labeled in plain language on packaged food, so your job of reading labels just got a little easier! However, you still want to be cautious and read ingredients carefully, as well as be aware of common sesame-containing foods if you decide to go out to eat.
Common Foods That Contain Sesame Are:
- Asian cuisine
- African cuisine
- Breakfast cereals
- Granola bars
- Bottled salad dressings
- Canned soups
- Mediterranean cuisine
- Mexican cuisine
- Bread crumbs
- Flavored risotto
- Rice cakes
- Processed meats and sausages
- Veggie burgers
- Trail mix
You should also be aware that traces of sesame have been found in these non-food items:
- Pet foods
In packaged foods manufactured prior to January 1, 2023, sesame may appear undeclared in the ingredients section. If you are unsure whether a product could contain sesame, call the manufacturer to ask about their ingredients and manufacturing practices.
When reading ingredient labels, it’s important to be aware of all the uncommon names for sesame that may be used. By knowing these names, you’ll be more prepared and more likely to prevent an allergy attack.
Ingredients to avoid include:
- Benne, benne seed, benniseed
- Gingelly, Gingelly oil
- Sesame salt
- Sesame flour
- Sesame oil
- Sesame paste
- Sesame seed
- Sesamum indicum
- Sim sim
- Tahini, tahina, tehina
Unfortunately, children (or adults) diagnosed with a sesame allergy usually have them for the rest of their lives. There’s only an estimated 20-30% of children outgrow their allergy.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is now recognized as number nine of the top ten most common allergens in the U.S. It’s estimated that about 0.23% of the United States population is affected by sesame allergies.
No, sesame is a seed, not a nut. However, the proteins found in sesame are similar to those found in nuts and may trigger an allergic reaction in children with nut allergies.
As with any allergy, they’re much more commonly diagnosed in infants and young children than in adolescents or adults.
Yes, hummus is made with a paste made of finely ground sesame seeds. If you have a sesame allergy, you must avoid hummus.
Even though sesame has just become recognized by the FDA as a major allergen, there have been people dealing with sesame allergies all their life. I understand that it may seem like you are doing this alone, but I promise that if you look in the right spot, you can find all the support you need.
Living with a food allergy is totally manageable! Yes, it requires attention to detail, planning, and vigilance. It also means that certain foods must come out of your diet. But it does not mean that life as you know it will end. With some simple safety steps, you can still eat out, travel, go to parties, send your child to school or on play dates, and live a normal life.
You can join a Facebook group, read books, listen to podcasts, or find blogs dedicated to sharing sesame-free recipes. There’s a ton of useful information out there, you just need to know where to look. I have faith in you that you’ll not only overcome but excel in managing your sesame allergy diagnosis.